The Program

Game Symphony is a group improvisation workshop that can transform musicians into confident, creative, and expressive improvisers. The workshop is for middle school, high school, college, and professional ensembles (mixed and non-standard, too).

The workshop teaches improvisation through community-building games and activities. These games introduce the creative practices of experimentation, play, limitations, and reflection in a fun and dynamic environment. This foundation of trust, camaraderie, and improvisational skills allows for an easy pivot to jazz improvisation, group composition, and beyond. 

Treseler and other facilitators lead 60-90 minute workshops, weekend retreats, guest artist performances, and more.

Download some of the games and activities for free.

GSW Activities

  • Musical adaptations of improv theater games

  • Soundpainting

  • Orignial graphic scores

  • Creative prompts from Creativity Triggers for Musicians

  • Bucket drumming

  • Improvisation with drones

  • Collaborative composition

  • Variations on a theme

  • Multi-media pieces

  • Intro to jazz improvisation

  • Culminating performance


The workshop may enhance your program if you want:

  • To empower independent, creative, and collaborative musicians

  • To build camaraderie and trust in your ensembles

  • To mix things up in rehearsals

  • Your students to volunteer to take solos

  • Your students to develop and express their musical personalities

  • Your students to thrive in diverse musical environments

Why Does it Work?

Traditional music education equips students with technique and ensemble skills, but many students aren't exposed to the process of creating original music.

Many classically-trained musicians have anxiety about improvisation. Rather than putting musicians on the spot as soloists, the Game Symphony Workshop introduces creative music through group games and exercises. Aligning improvisation with community-building activities eases fears—and once musicians build trust and confidence in the process, the creative possibilities are endless.


Steve Promo 1.jpg

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.

W.A. Mathieu

W.A. Mathieu

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.”

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