Footage from the Game Symphony Workshop

I had an exhilarating and inspiring weekend with thirteen musicians for the maiden voyage of the Game Symphony Workshop!

The event brought together a diverse group of musicians, including professional orchestral players, band directors, university students, and amateur musicians. The two day workshop at Seattle Pacific University culminated with the premiere of sixteen original pieces. The performance featured an improvised film score, abstract soundscapes, meditative minimalism, musical settings for poetry, solo improvisations, and Soundpainting, a sign language for live composition.

Kaley leads a rhythmic game on day one
Kaley leads a rhythm game on day one

Watch harpist Carol Levin Soundpaint a “Shapeline” piece:

The Downstairs 5tet performs a musical setting of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Sonnets from an Ungrafted Tree:

More footage to come. Big thanks to Karl Benitez for filming the workshop.

It was an honor to facilitate the workshop with Kaley Lane Eaton, an award-winning composer, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and arts education activist. Kaley and I met in graduate school, and our diverse backgrounds and shared vision are a great match.

I am thrilled that the workshop succeeded in four essential areas:

Easing Fears

The thought of musical improvisation in front of an audience can send a jolt of anxiety through the most accomplished classical musician. Many performers believe creating original music is a mysterious talent reserved for the naturally gifted.

Lack of natural creativity is never a problem. For most musicians, the real barrier is fear. And the fear is biological—being put on the spot triggers the fight-or-flight center of the brain, which we call ‘the lizard brain.’ As facilitators, Kaley and I introduced creative practices through collective games and activities, which break the ice and ease fears. I will outline the most successful games and activities in future posts.

Unlocking Creativity

Once the musicians build trust and confidence in the process, the creative possibilities are endless.

The creative practices we explore during the workshop are:

  • Experimentation
  • Play
  • Listening
  • Suspending Judgement
  • Limitations

I will dive into the practices in my forthcoming book, the Creative Music Handbook. The book includes the “Creative Limitation Menus” we use in the workshop. Click here to receive a free download of the book as soon as it is published later this summer.

Building Community

Kaley says, “To create and perform great music, we need to be able to creatively connect with others. Our creative practices are often stuffed into a practice room, isolating us from our peers. If we can break out of that sense of isolation, we can create more and connect with wider audiences.”

It was amazing to see eleven strangers develop instant camaraderie. Over the weekend we became a tight-knit group, and we are already talking about meetups and future workshops.


Experimenting in a workshop is one thing, but having the guts to perform something new in front of a crowd and a camera is another animal! The community, energy, and enthusiasm helped us quiet our lizard brains and put on a dynamic show.

What Participants are Saying

“Unbelievably fun! So many opportunities to play off the page, think outside the boundaries, try, stretch, invent and collaborate. Thanks for all the creativity triggers!”

  – Carol Levin, harp

“The ‘card came’ removed my usual block of being terrified to make s*** up (is it good?) and I felt really free. It was just inside my comfort zone and I was pleased with my own contribution. I also feel like I can apply the practices to my other creative pursuits.”

– Kendal Seager, violin

“A weekend of creativity stimulation.”

– Liana Green, trombone, M.M., New England Conservatory

“Such an awesome and inspiring weekend, making new friends and creating music together! It made me wonder why musicians don’t do this more often.”

– Robin Stangland, french horn and trumpet, founder of Puget Sound Homeschool Band

“The weekend was awesome and my mind and heart have been opened to lots of new thoughts and ideas. I loved how our little community grew together as we learned to trust each other. Thank you Steve and Kaley for crafting such an amazing experience for us.”

– Carol Krell, clarinet, band director for Mercer Island school district

Now that Kaley and I have a successful program under our belt, we have plans to expand the program through student and adult workshops, educator training, online communities, and performances.

If you would like Kaley and I to lead a Game Symphony Workshop for an adult or student ensemble, Email me at for more information.

– ST

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