top of page

Making Modern Noise

Jazz artist, Chris Coyle, and his ensemble open students’ eyes to the world of a professional composer, improviser, and songwriter while highlighting the ability of visual art to influence and inspire original music.

Pennsylvania Curriculum Standards

(A=Assembly; W=Workshop; R=Residency)

3.4 Science, Technology and Engineering Education A, W, R

9.1 Production, Performance and Exhibition of Dance, Music, Theatre and Visual Arts A, W, R

9.3 Critical Response W, R

15.4 Learning Through Experience A, W, R

25.3 Pro-Social Relationships with Adults W, R

25.4 Pro-Social Relationships with Peers W, R

Art Form(s): Music, Media

Genre: Jazz

Instrument(s): Percussion, Bass, Vibraphone, Keyboard

Musicopia offers quality
“Little Ones” programming
for Early Learning Centers

Assembly, Workshop, and Residency Offerings

Making Modern Noise Assembly

Outside Sound aims to connect various art forms (including visual art, film, and music itself) to music composition and improvisation. Using examples that both engage and involve students, program director Chris Coyle and his ensemble demonstrate how different arts and mediums can influence and inspire each other. Additionally, essential music concepts and techniques are touched upon (singing, scales, chords) and the actual definitions of composition and improvisation are investigated.

The Outside Sound ensemble begins with a short performance set to visual art displayed (if tech is provided) on a projector screen. After introducing the ensemble and explaining the mission of the project, Chris involves students in singing or performing notes, scales and chords and exampling how these sounds can be applied or likened to visual elements such as color, line and space. This is then tied into the topic of music composition. Next, a visual art example will be shared which the students then perform alongside to, assisted by the ensemble. Moving on from visual elements, the concepts of theme, story and emotion are examined using a clip from a silent film accompanied by the ensemble’s music. This is a fun and entertaining demonstration that evolves to include students who will then use percussion, vocal sound effects and etc. to respond to the action on-screen and to create “foley” (the reproduction of everyday sounds that are added to film and video). This is tied into the topic of improvisation. Lastly, the ensemble will explain how music itself can serve as inspiration for new music - how it can even be “recycled” through arrangement. A rearranged popular theme will be performed to demonstrate this idea.

Best for: K-12  •  Special Needs


Making Modern Noise Workshop

Our interactive workshops focus on specific topics (composition, improvisation, visual elements, theme, arrangement) and on the musical tools at hand (percussion/rhythm performing, singing, scale and chord construction, and lastly instrumental techniques if applicable). With a smaller audience (ideally < 20 students) taking part in these workshops, the ensemble helps participants to take part in hands-on experiments and activities that are not possible with the larger assembly audience.

Best for: K-12  •  Special Needs


Making Modern Noise Residency

Our residencies commence with a kick-off assembly that opens students’ eyes to the world of a professional composer, improviser, and songwriter. Jazz artist Chris Coyle opens this unique program by performing excerpts from his “Outside Sound” project, a collection of songs inspired by artistic works created by individuals with various disabilities. Following the performance, Chris shares the artwork with the audience and discusses his improvisational process. The program highlights the ability of visual art to inspire original music.


Throughout the course of a multi-week residency, students develop a deep understanding of music-making and are encouraged to employ even the most basic tools and concepts to create music. The connection between music-making and other art disciplines is also explored, and is used to allow students to express themselves in new ways. Encouraging students to take musical risks and experiment is a cornerstone of this residency experience. Workshops will focus on each topic (composition, improvisation, visual elements, theme, arrangement) and on the musical tools at hand (percussion/rhythm performing, singing, scale and chord construction). Depending on the length/number of workshops, students will be encouraged to create their own short compositions, improvised pieces, or music rearrangements.


Chris begins the first workshop by explaining the processes of composing and improvising through a demonstrative process. The primary goal of the first day is to give students an idea of various ways to expand their creativity through discussion and exploration. Once students are introduced to the role of composers in modern music, inspiration for musical composition is investigated. Students learn creative ways to interact with instruments to improvise and are encouraged to employ sound in unconventional ways. They learn the basics of formal and informal musical notation so that recording and notating their own music becomes accessible despite their level of music theory knowledge.


Students are also introduced to the rehearsal and recording process, and share the music that they have created with their peers. Chris helps archive the work of the students by recording the sounds they have worked on, and discusses modern recording techniques and how the students can start to edit and share their own music. “Making Modern Noise” aims to inspire students to improvise in music, art, and in life, and to empower students by helping them to understand that creativity, like everything else, is a process.

At the end of a residency, a final assembly will be held. Here students will be able to share their progress and their compositions/improv pieces/rearrangements with the help of the OS ensemble. We will discuss what worked well and what was difficult in this process. Students will have the chance to ask the ensemble questions about learned topics, about our artistry, and about what it is like to work as musicians. Students will also get a chance to try out the ensemble’s instruments!

Best for: K-12  •  Special Needs

About the Artist

Featuring: Outside Sound

Chris Coyle is a bassist, composer and music educator based in Philadelphia. He has both performed and taught in a wide variety of settings and specializes in jazz, classical, world and experimental music. With the Outside Sound project, Chris has had the chance to teach, perform and present extensively in Philadelphia, Boston and Minneapolis. The OS Ensemble has held numerous assemblies and workshops at schools throughout the Philadelphia area and has notably performed at local venues such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Free Library of Philadelphia. Through this work, Chris has also taught and collaborated with artists with disabilities at numerous art centers serving disabilities communities.

Joined Musicopia: 2013

bottom of page