The Program

The Game Symphony Workshop is a group improvisation experience that generates the skills, confidence, and community to unlock musical creativity. It can be played in classrooms, on the professional stage, and at conferences or retreats.

The GSW is designed for university, high school, middle school, adult amateur, and professional ensembles (mixed and non-standard, too!). Facilitators Steve Treseler and Kaley Eaton travel to work with schools or ensembles on-site.

The Game Symphony Workshop has two formats: 90-minute clinics, or a 2-3 day intensive workshop followed by a concert.

Facilitators lead engaging games and activities that introduce the creative practices of experimentation, play, and limitations. Activities include musical adaptations of theater games, Soundpainting, creative prompts, graphic scores, improvisation with drones, collaborative composition, variations on a theme, and a culminating performance.

Game Symphony Workshop is a re-implementable model for learning improvisation, and can be taught as part of core musicianship. We offer free resources you can share with your students and colleagues.

The Game Symphony Workshop brought out personalities in some of my students that I have never before seen.  Students who excel in music were given new and exciting challenges, and students who are still struggling on their instruments suddenly lost all fear of making a mistake while playing by themselves.  Students from 6th -12th grade still ask if we can use class time to play the games we learned through the Game Symphony Workshop.  Whatever magic Steve has up his sleeve, it has really stuck with my musicians!

Christy Taylor,
Director of Bands,
Twin Falls High School and O'Leary Middle School

The Game Symphony Workshop should be a part of every school's music curriculum!

Brent Jensen
Director of Jazz Studies (retired)
College of Southern Idaho

Saxophonist and teaching artist Steve Treseler founded the Game Symphony Workshop in 2016. After teaching jazz improvisation workshops for over a decade, Steve found that drawing from improv theater games provides an engaging, effective, and fun introduction to musical improvisation. These games provide a gateway to deeper creative practices.

The multi-day workshop experience:

  • Unlocks innate creativity
  • Helps musicians break through musical and psychological barriers
  • Is non-idiomatic (we teach process, not style)
  • Builds camaraderie and trust

The Program

Throughout the multi-day workshop, musicians experience:

  • Musical adaptations of theater games
  • Conducted improvisation (Soundpainting and Conduction)
  • Creative prompts from Steve's book Creativity Triggers for Musicians
  • Graphic Scores
  • Improvisation with drones
  • Collaborative composition
  • Variations on a theme
  • A culminating concert of original music

Student and Adult Workshops

A team of facilitators bring the workshop to university, high school, and middle school music programs. Please fill out the GSW Inquiry Form for more information.

Watch Steve lead the improv game "Guess the Animal" with a group of instrumentalists and vocalists at the 2017 Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival:

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.

Composer and author W. A. Mathieu was the first musical director of The Second City, and he developed musical adaptations theater games to support the actors on stage. 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.

Free Resources