Hailey Niswanger (pronounced “NICE–wonger”), graduated in December of 2011 with a bachelor's degree in Jazz Performannce from the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, on a full scholarship. Hailey has an impressive list of accomplishments that reach far beyond the borders of her home in Portland, Oregon, and well beyond her years. Born February 12, 1990 in Houston, Hailey has shared the stage with Esperanza Spalding, DeeDee Bridgewater, George Duke, George Garzone, Red Holloway, Terell Stafford, Phil Woods, James Moody, Steve Nelson, Christian McBride, McCoy Tyner, Maceo Parker, Wynton Marsalis, Mark Whitfield and other jazz greats. Hailey leads her own quartet that has performed at the Saratoga Jazz Festival (2012, 2010), Red Clay Jazz Festival (2011), Salem Jazz Festival (2011), Beaches International Jazz Festival (2010), Elkhart Jazz Festival (2010), Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival (2009), Tri-C Jazz Festival (2009), The Blue Note Jazz Club, Jimmy Mak’s Jazz Club, other jazz venues around Portland and the Northeast, and has given clinics to jazz students of all ages. In 2010, Hailey was one of 14 students selected to be part of the inaugural class of Berklee’s elite new Global Jazz Institute under the artistic direction of Danilo Perez. She has performed with the Institute at the Panama Jazz Festival (2011, 2010), Newport Jazz Festival (2010), and Monterey Jazz Festival (2010), and at The Blue Note in New York. In the Fall of 2009 through mid 2012, Hailey was the alto saxophonist (a chair once held by Miguel Zenon, Jaleel Shaw and others) in the Either/Orchestra, an internationally renowned ensemble that performs jazz, Latin, and Ethiopian music, with performances collaborating with internationally renowned Ethiopian artists Mahmoud Ahmed, Mulatu Astatke, and Teshome Mitiku, at the Teatro Di Manzoni in Milan, Italy (2010), Chicago Jazz Festival (2010), performances in Ethiopia (2011), and at various venues around New England.
This Fall, Hailey will be subbing for Tia Fuller in Esperanza Spalding's Radio Music Society Tour, traveling around the midwest United States, France, England, and Spain.
Hailey’s self-produced and self-released recording debut as a leader, Confeddie, (June 2009) established her throughout North America. Although she also plays soprano sax, clarinet and flute, Hailey showcases solely her alto sax skills on the CD that features a rhythm section composed of fellow Berklee students Michael Palma on piano, Greg Chaplin on bass and Mark Whitfield Jr. on drums. An authoritative straight-ahead recording, Confeddie reveals a level of instrumental virtuosity that belies her age on arrangements of modern jazz classics by Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, Kenny Dorham and Benny Golson. Hailey also penned the title track whose name is a combination of “confetti,” to convey the festive feeling that permeates the album, and the first name of legendary saxophonist Eddie Harris in whose style it was written.
Promoted to U.S. and Canadian press and radio, the CD received stellar reviews in JazzTimes, Jazziz and Downbeat and inspired veteran jazz critic Nat Hentoff to pen a profile of Hailey in The Wall Street Journal in November 2009 he included in his book At the Jazz Band Ball: Sixty Years on the Jazz Scene (the day after this article was published Confeddie was the #2 downloaded jazz album at Amazon.com where it remained in the Jazz Top-100 for over a week and debuted the following week at #13 on the Billboard Jazz Album Chart. Programmed on over 100 radio stations, it was on the CMJ Jazz Top-40 chart for 11 consecutive weeks including four in the top-10, three in the top-5 and two at its peak position of #4. Confeddie also spent three weeks on the JazzWeek Top-50 chart, was among the top 100 jazz CDs in the U.S. for two months and was cited by NPR on its annual year-end lists as one of the top-10 jazz CDs of 2009.
Hailey released her second album, The Keeper, on April 24, 2012. Hailey demonstrates even greater virtuosity on her horns—alto and soprano saxophones—and deeper grounding in tradition with her second release, The Keeper, a set of eight of her own compositions, along with one apiece from the pens of Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and Cole Porter. She is joined by three masterly former Berklee associates—pianist Takeshi Ohbayashi, bassist Max Moran, and drummer Mark Whitfield Jr.—and, on three selections, trumpeter Darren Barrett, a Berklee alumnus who now teaches at the prestigious institution. Hailey’s eight originals reflect her abiding affinity for the bop and post-bop genres of jazz and profound respect for her mentors. The joyous, time-signature-shifting title song, as well as the entire CD, is dedicated to the memory of Jeff Cumpston. He was the director of both the jazz band and symphonic band during her four years at West Linn High School near Portland. He also played drums in her band. In 2008, soon after she graduated, he moved with his family to Zimbabwe to teach elementary school. He died there the following year in a traffic accident.
Hailey hit the road running in May 2009 after completing her first year at Berklee when she was a featured artist at the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. whose saxophone competition she won in 2008 (her concert was featured on NPR’s “JazzSet With Dee Dee Bridgewater” originally broadcast in October 2009). Hailey performed with the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra that performed at the North Sea Jazz Festival (2008) and the 51st Monterey Jazz Festival (2008); played with the Gibson/Baldwin GRAMMY® Jazz Ensemble in Hollywood and the Jazz Band of America in Indianapolis (2008 & 2007); performed with the Pacific Crest Jazz Orchestra and Combo at the IAJE conference in New York and at pre-festival events for the 50th Anniversary Monterey Jazz Festival; and attended the Vail Jazz Workshop led by John and Jeff Clayton, performing on the main stage of the Vail Jazz Festival with Taylor Eigsti who later invited her to appear with him at the Jazz Alley in Seattle (2007). In 2006 and 2007 Hailey received scholarships to attend Berklee’s Summer Jazz Workshop directed by Terri Lyne Carrington.
A 2008 graduate of West Linn High School near Portland, where she moved with her family in 1992, Hailey played saxophone and clarinet in the school’s jazz and symphonic bands and was a member of Thara Memory’s Pacific Crest Jazz Orchestra and Combo. During the summers of 2008 and 2009 she taught piano to 5-7 year olds and woodwinds to 12-18 year olds at Willowbrook Arts Camp where she played her first notes on a woodwind (clarinet) when she was eight years old.