Workshops

This year’s festival features workshops for improvisers of all skill levels.  Click on the links below to register!

Friday, October 14th, 2016

Singing Sondheim – How to Improvise Music Like the Master
with Aaron Graham and Paul W. Thompson of ISP

5:00 – 7:00PM ($45) – SOLD OUT!

In this exciting music improv workshop, you’ll learn tricks and techniques from veteran performers of the Improvised Sondheim Project. Discover how singing from emotion and stream-of-consciousness work hand-in-hand with alliteration, repetition and rhyme to create complex lyrics that sound satisfyingly Sondheim-esque. You’ll have a ball as you throw out traditional music improv song forms and embrace new structures created by the Improvised Sondheim Project. Whether you want to sound more like Sondheim or just infuse your music improv with new energy, emotion, and nuance, this workshop is not to be missed.

Aaron Graham is a founding member of the Improvised Sondheim Project and a faculty member at The Second City in Chicago where he teaches musical improvisation and music directs sketch and improv. As an actor based out of Chicago, Aaron has worked with some the city’s finest theatres including Steppenwolf, Chicago Shakespeare, Porchlight Music Theatre, Northlight, and TimeLine. In 2007, Aaron was honored to receive the Joseph Jefferson Award (Equity Wing) for his performance as Tateh in Porchlight’s acclaimed production of Ragtime. In New York, Aaron has performed at NY Fringe and UCB’s Del Close Marathon, and is thrilled to return to NYMIF with the Improvised Sondheim Project for the fourth year in a row. Originally from Deerfield, Illinois, he trained at The Second City Conservatory, iO Chicago, Annoyance, Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre LA, and BADA in England. Aaron earned his B.A. from Cornell University and is a certified life coach for creative professionals. www.AaronGraham.net

Paul W. Thompson has lived at the intersection of words and music for more than half a century. A native of Nashville, he’s made Chicago his home since 1987. A third-generation professional music teacher and performer, he has Music Directed for the Improvised Sondheim Project since 2014, appearing at every major Chicago improv, sketch and comedy festival, as well as at the 2015 and 2016 New York Musical Improv Festivals and the 2016 Improv Festival of Cincinnati. He is on the music faculty of the Second City Training Center, and teaches piano and musical theater voice at his studio in Chicago’s Loop. Active in music theater productions, classical concerts and liturgical worship, Thompson has conducted “Gypsy” and “Rent,” sung all three “Lord of the Rings” film scores at the Ravinia Festival, and composed a cantata in response to September 11th. He has sung on Grammy-winning recordings of Verdi and Wagner with the Chicago Symphony Chorus, sang Mozart and Berlioz at this year’s Grant Park Music Festival, and was Major Rizzoli in the Midwest premiere of Sondheim’s “Passion.” He’s collaborating on the book, music and lyrics of a full-scale musical adaptation of “The Great Gatsby.” Thompson was Editor of BroadwayWorld Chicago for eight years, and is Vice-President and Treasurer of Chicago’s chapter of the singing teachers’ association (NATS). With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in musical theater, and appearances in 35 states and Europe (including five performances at Carnegie Hall), his proudest achievement is having seen the original production of every Tony Award-winning Best Musical for over 30 years, from “Cats” through “Hamilton.”

Saturday, October 15th, 2016

Game of the Song with Mike Descoteaux from ImprovBoston

12:00 – 3:00PM ($55) – SOLD OUT!

Discover the simple joy and comedic power of ImprovBoston-style game-driven songs. Using two fundamental structures, participants will explore the ridiculous fun that comes through effortlessly heightening the lyrical, emotional, physical, situational and musical patterns that present themselves in the scene leading up to a song. We’ll play with the emotional and reactive scenic building blocks that lead to the best improvised songs. Experience how the success of the song is virtually guaranteed before the first note is even sung (the secret’s in the scene). With over 15 years of singprov directing, teaching and music direction across the country, Mike is thrilled to share his passion for mind-melting musical improv.

Mike Descoteaux is the Artistic Director of ImprovBoston. Mike served as head and creator of the Music Program at The Second City Training Center and music director of the Second City Etc stage in Chicago. Named one of the top young songwriters in the country by the Johnny Mercer/AMTP association, he has had the privilege of working with Tony Award-winning artists such as Jason Robert Brown, William Finn, Mark Hollmann and James LaPine. His work has been seen on NBC, A&E, WGN and stages across the country. He has “composed” and “conducted” over 1,000 completely improvised musicals with Baby Wants Candy, Musical! the musical, I Eat Pandas, BLANK! The Musical Off-Broadway and many others. In addition to teaching at institutions like the Second City, ImprovBoston, Northwestern University, and Columbia College, Mike has led workshops in music improv around the world.

Singing Sondheim – How to Improvise Music Like the Master
with Aaron Graham and Paul W. Thompson of ISP

3:00 – 5:00PM ($45) – SOLD OUT!

In this exciting music improv workshop, you’ll learn tricks and techniques from veteran performers of the Improvised Sondheim Project. Discover how singing from emotion and stream-of-consciousness work hand-in-hand with alliteration, repetition and rhyme to create complex lyrics that sound satisfyingly Sondheim-esque. You’ll have a ball as you throw out traditional music improv song forms and embrace new structures created by the Improvised Sondheim Project. Whether you want to sound more like Sondheim or just infuse your music improv with new energy, emotion, and nuance, this workshop is not to be missed.

Aaron Graham is a founding member of the Improvised Sondheim Project and a faculty member at The Second City in Chicago where he teaches musical improvisation and music directs sketch and improv. As an actor based out of Chicago, Aaron has worked with some the city’s finest theatres including Steppenwolf, Chicago Shakespeare, Porchlight Music Theatre, Northlight, and TimeLine. In 2007, Aaron was honored to receive the Joseph Jefferson Award (Equity Wing) for his performance as Tateh in Porchlight’s acclaimed production of Ragtime. In New York, Aaron has performed at NY Fringe and UCB’s Del Close Marathon, and is thrilled to return to NYMIF with the Improvised Sondheim Project for the fourth year in a row. Originally from Deerfield, Illinois, he trained at The Second City Conservatory, iO Chicago, Annoyance, Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre LA, and BADA in England. Aaron earned his B.A. from Cornell University and is a certified life coach for creative professionals. www.AaronGraham.net

Paul W. Thompson has lived at the intersection of words and music for more than half a century. A native of Nashville, he’s made Chicago his home since 1987. A third-generation professional music teacher and performer, he has Music Directed for the Improvised Sondheim Project since 2014, appearing at every major Chicago improv, sketch and comedy festival, as well as at the 2015 and 2016 New York Musical Improv Festivals and the 2016 Improv Festival of Cincinnati. He is on the music faculty of the Second City Training Center, and teaches piano and musical theater voice at his studio in Chicago’s Loop. Active in music theater productions, classical concerts and liturgical worship, Thompson has conducted “Gypsy” and “Rent,” sung all three “Lord of the Rings” film scores at the Ravinia Festival, and composed a cantata in response to September 11th. He has sung on Grammy-winning recordings of Verdi and Wagner with the Chicago Symphony Chorus, sang Mozart and Berlioz at this year’s Grant Park Music Festival, and was Major Rizzoli in the Midwest premiere of Sondheim’s “Passion.” He’s collaborating on the book, music and lyrics of a full-scale musical adaptation of “The Great Gatsby.” Thompson was Editor of BroadwayWorld Chicago for eight years, and is Vice-President and Treasurer of Chicago’s chapter of the singing teachers’ association (NATS). With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in musical theater, and appearances in 35 states and Europe (including five performances at Carnegie Hall), his proudest achievement is having seen the original production of every Tony Award-winning Best Musical for over 30 years, from “Cats” through “Hamilton.”

Sunday, October 16th, 2016

NYMIF WORKSHOP: SCENEWORK FOR MUSICAL IMPROV WITH MILES LINDAHL, WOODY FU

12:00 – 3:00PM ($45) – SOLD OUT!

You know how to yes-and and heighten, you know how to sing a tagline song. But how do you learn musical improv scenework? Either by doing 100 shows, or by taking this workshop. We’ve got some original exercises that explore genre, playing aggressively, and surprising each other. This elective will arm you with the tools to spice up a narrative and put some fun back into your songs!

Woody Fu  has studied at the Magnet with Armando Diaz, Rachel Hamilton, James Eason, Peter McNerney, Alex Marino, Ed Herbstman, Tara Copeland, Michael Martin and Frank Spitznagel. He draws comics, collects records, and appeared in the second season of the UCB show for 15 seconds as a screaming, militant Vietnamese soldier covered in baby powder.

Miles Lindahl is an improviser and frequent accompanist for musical improv teams in New York City, Miles Lindahl started playing guitar to impress a girl in 7th grade. When that failed, he picked up piano, bass, and–much to the disappointment of his mother–drums.

Over the past few years, he has spent nearly every Tuesday behind a drum kit at Musical Megawatt next to Musical Director Frank Spitznagel, who helped him hone his improvisational piano playing. Miles has since provided accompaniment for PopUp Musicals, Baby Wants Candy, Running Late with Scott Rogowsky, and various Magnet, PIT, and indie teams. He also performs on a Musical Megawatt house team at the Magnet Theater, where he met his wife.  His mom couldn’t be happier.