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Since 2005, KNKX's School of Jazz has provided mentorship, learning and performance opportunities to Western Washington middle school, high school and college jazz students. A cornerstone of the station's signature community outreach program, it has directly impacted thousands of jazz students, band directors and professional musicians. School of Jazz is sponsored by BECU.

Jazz kids of all ages: Hear the Jazz Night School studio session

Parker Miles Blohm

Jazz musicians are always learning, and thanks to Seattle's nonprofit Jazz Night School program, students ages 10-74 are getting that education. An all-star ensemble mentored by trumpet and sax player Jay Thomas showed us how fun the early stages of learning jazz can be at any age.

Jazz Night School was founded in 2008 by pianist, composer, band leader (and more) Erik Hanson. The school's curricula and methodology is centered on improvisation, in big band and small ensemble context. As mentor Jay Thomas, one of the school's many talented musician/teachers told us, they learn "the old fashioned way." That is, they learn from watching, listening to, and playing with each other.

It's also centered on creating community. The ensemble in our studios ranged from recent retiree to practicing attorney and new high school graduate. Some had previously played other styles of music, now hooked on jazz. Others were returning to jazz after a long absence. All expressed their passion in their playing.

Especially nice was their sense of feeling on Harold Land's beautiful "Rapture," and also their attentive listening and focus on a tricky arrangement of the standard "East of the Sun." I asked Jay Thomas who arranged their version and he proudly answered, "We did!"

These musicians, their instructors, and Jazz Night School have something to be very proud of here. They are providing a much needed opportunity for that important connection, the musical community that makes all of our lives better. Bravo!

Abe grew up in Western Washington, a 3rd generation Seattle/Tacoma kid. It was as a student at Pacific Lutheran University that Abe landed his first job at KNKX, editing and producing audio for news stories. It was a Christmas Day shift no one else wanted that gave Abe his first on-air experience which led to overnights, then Saturday afternoons, and started hosting Evening Jazz in 1998.