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20 Years of MoPOP: The Launch of Sound Off!

20 Years of MoPOP: Sound Off!

To celebrate 20 years of the Museum of Pop Culture, we're highlighting 20 of the most notable moments from MoPOP's history. For our nonprofit museum's sixth milestone, we look back at the 2001 launch of Sound Off!


Launched in 2001 and still going strong, MoPOP’s Sound Off! program is the premier 21-and-under music showcase and competition in the Pacific Northwest. Participants get the opportunity to showcase their original music in MoPOP’s Sky Church, connect with peer musicians, and are mentored by industry leaders and an artistic community invested in welcoming them as full-fledged members of one of the nation’s most vibrant music scenes.

"We want this program to not just be like 'let’s find Seattle’s next most popular band,'" says Robert Rutherford, MoPOP's Manager of Public Engagement. "We want this to be a reflection of the creative things that are happening among these young people, and to that end I think that we recognize that we have a lot of work to do to make sure that we’re making space for and providing entry points for young people who aren’t just those kids with resources. We’re focused on leveling the playing field and trying to make it as simple for young people who are making their own music to be a part of this.

"The other thing that we’re really interested in doing is making this more than just 12 artists coming together over a period of four weeks and competing for a prize. We want this to be a longer relationship with the artists, so we’ve expanded the development opportunities for the artists that participate. So they get to enter into relationships with a bunch of different people from the music scene, from people who book venues like Jason Clackley at The Vera Project, to people who are invested in elevating and amplifying youth voices at places like KEXP and The Cube, people who book festivals, and older artists in the community who we generally invite to participate as judges. And these are folks who have years and years of stage experience, and are in the best position to provide actionable feedback to these young artists, specifically about playing live shows.

"We try to extend that conversation beyond the shows themselves. We keep in touch with them to let them know about workshops that are happening at The Vera Project, or free songwriting workshops at KEXP, or grants that are available to regional musicians funded by the city Office of Arts and Culture. We really just try to make our engagement with them about finding them opportunities that they might not know about otherwise."


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The Museum of Pop Culture’s mission is to make creative expression a life-changing force by offering experiences that inspire and connect our communities.

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