In 2016, Seattle-based saxophonist and teaching artist Steve Treseler developed the Game Symphony Workshop to bring an engaging and non-intimidating introduction to improvisation to musicians of all ages.
The workshop breaks through the greatest challenges of teaching improvisation in the classroom:
- Improvisation is the source of fear and confusion for many formally trained musicians and teachers
- It's challenging to keep an entire ensemble engaged while teaching solo jazz improvisation
While studying jazz saxophone at New England Conservatory in Boston, Steve was introduced to John Zorn's experimental game piece Cobra and approaches for structuring improvisation through musical limitations. He discovered that these approaches are fun and engaging for musicians of all ages.
What Is a Game Symphony?
The Second City Theater in Chicago pioneered improv theater and comedy games in the 1960s. The Second City trained many of the most renowned comics of our time, including Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, and Amy Pohler.
One of Treseler's mentors, composer and author W. A. Mathieu, was the first musical director of The Second City. He developed musical adaptations theater games to support the actors on stage, and later on, Mathieu and the Chicago Improvising Players arranged musical games into multi-movement “Game Symphonies.”
Mathieu says “the purpose of musical games is not to generate a polished product, but to make musicians feel safe, adventuresome, and confident in the creative process.”