How to Form a Musical Improv Indie Team

  • February 8, 2024

Forming your own independent musical improv team can be challenging, but if you’re motivated, it can be a rewarding way to get reps and expose more people to the art of musical improv. This post provides a short beginner’s guide to what you’ll need to do to get your team off the ground.

Step 1: Find Your Teammates

For some folks, this step is already done. Maybe you already have a group of musical improv friends from a previous class or a jam. If not, you’ll want to find a group–jams and classes are a great way to start. The “Musical Improv in the Bay Area” Facebook group is another.

Ensuring that all members are committed and understand their responsibilities is important. Consider spelling out expectations with your team by writing a team contract, or at minimum a list of expectations that everyone agrees to–for example, minimum attendance at rehearsals and expected financial contribution.

Step 2: Find a Coach and a Musical Director

A first stop for finding a coach and Musical Director can be ones you’ve already worked with from classes or jams. Alternatively, you can watch musical improv shows and if there are players you admire, consider asking them to coach. 

Finding a Musical Director can be a major challenge for a new team. As part of the Bay Area Musical Improv project, we are directly working with around a dozen up-and-coming Musical Directors to help them build their skills and master the craft. If you have an indie team that is in need of a Musical Director, send us an e-mail with information about your team and we can pass your information along to our network of MDs.

Step 3: Find Rehearsal Space

Finding an affordable rehearsal space in the bay area can be challenging. If any players have a home or apartment big enough, consider holding rehearsals there to save money. Alternatively, some coaches are affiliated with theaters that may let out rehearsal space for free when classes aren’t running (though be aware that such slots are not always at ideal times). And lastly, paying to rent out a space may be the best option for your team, as long as expectations are set with all team members around the financial requirements of doing so.

Step 4: Develop Your Form/Concept

Every team needs to have some kind of form or show concept that guides them. This can change over time, but having that anchor is important for both developing together as a team and promoting your show. This process should happen as a group.

Some key questions you’ll want to ask are: Do we want to do shortform or longform? Is our show narrative or non-narrative? What tone are we going for? How do we get our inspiration from the audience? Do we want to have a genre focus? What makes our show different from others already out there?

Step 5: Find Shows

Once you have a team, a coach, a Musical Director, regular rehearsals and a show concept, you’re ready to play in front of audiences! Finding shows to submit to requires some research, but there’s no lack of opportunities to play around the bay area, whether it’s for indie team nights at improv theaters, open mics at various venues, or even your own headlining show. As you develop as a team you can also submit to local and out-of-state festivals.

Step 6: Promote Your Shows

One of the hardest (or at least most annoying) parts of running an indie team is promoting your shows. It requires persistence and some creativity to make sure you’re playing in front of full audiences. If you’re playing as part of someone else’s show, bringing in a crowd is a great way to encourage them to book your team again. Some theaters and shows even have a minimum number of paying audience members required for the show to go on. 

Whatever your situation, treat promoting your shows with the same passion as you treat developing your craft. Get creative and have fun with it. No, posting a couple ticket links on social media won’t be enough. Look for more direct forms of communication–directly emailing people you know, printing up flyers you can hand out at jams and in classes, creating fun and compelling content on social media that will make people want to share it for you. You get the idea!

Also, don't forget to e-mail us so we can add your show to our calendar!