“What’s the silliest noise you can think of?”

That’s often a very important question Snow City Arts’ music teaching artist Lenny Zieben asks after finding out whether a child in the hospital is interested in making music. When a student wants to play guitar, keyboard, or even ukulele, Zieben pulls out that instrument and they start creating. Some want to go in a different direction and use samples and effects to create a new, innovative piece of music, while other kids like the idea but are reticent to try it, saying they don’t know what exactly to do or where to start. For these kids, the silly noises are where the fun starts.

While utilizing Ableton Live software on a MacBook Pro, a microphone, and a keyboard, Zieben is able to quickly capture any number of noises made by the student, usually about four or five samples. Sometimes, instead of building around previously recorded pieces of music, the only foundational sounds the pair uses are those created entirely by the student.

Zieben then works with the student to layer-in different effects. Within a matter of minutes, he’s helped the student move towards creating a wholly new musical composition that student can call his or her own.

“Sometimes, kids are shy about singing, this project allows them to make the voice their instrument and combine sounds into a unique musical creation,” Zieben says.

Take a listen to the work of Jaron, age 10, who created this piece, titled “Rediculously Goofy,” using only sounds he made.


As is often the case with SCA Teaching Artists, Zieben’s work as a professional artist informs his work in the hospital. “These tools are being used in every style of music right now, and I find myself using this more and more in my own music,” he says.

This sampling project has been used by SCA in partner hospitals for about a year, and like all projects, its use is still evolving. Zieben realizes that it isn’t for everyone: there’s a lot of stopping and starting, many quick choices to be made, and it can require patience to work through to a finished product. The students who do embrace it, however, want to keep experimenting and working for as much time as they can in the hospital room.

At the hospital, students generally work on this project by themselves. But at the interactive art table at Snow City Arts Gallery Night 2017, held at The School of the Art Institute on September 8, guests will be able to trigger and layer sounds already developed by students. It’s just a sample of the fun, creative experiences going on every day with children in hospitals thanks to Snow City Arts teaching artists like Lenny Zieben.

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