Seattle-based saxophonist and teaching artist Steve Treseler developed the Game Symphony Workshop in 2016 to fill a need in the music education community: an engaging and non-intimidating introduction to improvisation.

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 improvisation used to be part of classical training through the 19th century, the practice has been largely abandoned

While studying jazz saxophone at New England Conservatory in Boston, Steve Treseler 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.


Community-building games, activities, and creative prompts help groups build trust and camaraderie. This foundation allows for an easy pivot to jazz improvisation, group composition, and beyond.

Steve has used these activities to launch successful high school jazz combo programs and help groups of classically-trained musicians create original works.

Treseler has teamed up with composer, vocalist, and teaching artist Dr. Kaley Lane Eaton to lead adult workshops at Seattle Pacific University and Cornish College of the Arts. 

Download GSW activities for free.

Learn more about the program.

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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 Steve 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.”

The name "Game Symphony" balances the playfulness of musical games with the larger architecture and gravity of a symphonic work.