I was just out on an early morning walk when a neighbor of mine asked me if I knew anything about Jazz At Lincoln Center’s Jazz Academy program for middle school students. (His son plays trombone and is thinking of auditioning.) I told him to “go for it” and suggested his son practice a lot, since I’m sure a lot of other kids are trying to get in as well.

Here’s the thing: Jazz Academy is free. Any New York City middle school student can audition. What an opportunity! (And they’ll learn from my baritone sax-playing friend Claire Daly, who’s on the faculty.)

Programs like this are all over the place these days. And if they don’t exist in your community, you can study music online and then create your own local group. Great things happen when people come together to play music. It’s a place where education, friendship, and community all converge in a wonderful, fulfilling way.

Whatever your age: start a rock band, form a string quartet, organize a jazz ensemble, create an a cappella singing group. Maybe each member chips in a few dollars and you hire an instructor or conductor to guide you along. I hope you do it; this is the place where lifelong friendships and memories are made.

If you’re new to improvising, or need to take your playing “up a notch,” here are some free lessons to help you. Have fun!

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