Most independent efforts are small and emphasize serving local communities. I want to tell you about three programs in particular that are bringing music to kids and adults regardless of their background. I hope that learning about such programs will invite you to explore what's possible in your community.
1. Ethos - Portland, Oregon. Ethos was founded in 1998 by a small group of volunteers, based on a plan that had originally been someone's undergraduate thesis at Harvard. Since then, Ethos has grown to serve hundreds of kids through its North Portland music center and its mobile urban-rural outreach programs. (Ethos very kindly allowed me to record my first demos in their tiny recording studio back in 2002; those demos led to the creation of my first album, City of Love.)
2. Rock n' Roll Camp for Girls - Portland, Oregon. Founded by a Portland State student as a summer camp project in 2001, Rock n' Roll Camp has grown into a year-round program that empowers girls and women through its educational programs in playing, writing and recording original rock music. The program spawned a nationwide grass-roots movement called Girls Rock Camp Alliance, with programs now in place in several US states and two European countries. Graduates of the Portland program have gone on to notable fame, and a couple of acts have even signed with record labels.
3. Americana Music Academy - Lawrence, Kansas. I learned about Americana on my recent mini-tour in the Kansas City area. Billed as teaching "America's Music," the academy offers private and group lessons on many instruments and covers everything from folk, roots and bluegrass to blues and jazz. Sliding-scale and free lessons are available by scholarship based on financial need, and a kids music camp is offered during the summer months. Community events include concerts, community jam sessions and a monthly songwriter's roundtable (which I was honored to be a part of in October). Most of the faculty are leading session players and performers in the greater Kansas City area (and if you haven't been to KC to check out the incredible music scene, just GO already; there's a TON of live music happening in Lawrence and also in downtown Kansas City/Westport).
I invite you to check out what's happening to promote music education in YOUR city. Ask how you can support programs in the schools and elsewhere. Music education is not a "luxury" -- it's a vital part of human and social development in a civilized society -- and making music is FUN for all ages, at every stage of life.
If you find a cool program in your area, please write and tell me about it, and I'll share it here at my blog.