Hailey Niswanger (pronounced “NICE–wonger”), currently attending the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston where she is studying jazz performance on a full scholarship, 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, Texas, she has shared the stage with 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 and leads her own quartet that has performed at the Portland Jazz Festival, Jimmy Mak’s Jazz Club, Mt. Hood Jazz Festival and other jazz venues around Portland. In September of 2009 Hailey was selected as the new alto saxophonist in the internationally acclaimed big band the Either/Orchestra, occupying the chair previously held by Miguel Zenon and Jaleel Shaw, among others.
Hailey’s June 2009 recording debut as a leader -- the self-produced and self-released CD Confeddie -- was promoted to both U.S. and Canadian press and radio, establishing her throughout North America. The album was reviewed in such leading jazz magazines as JazzTimes and Jazziz and inspired veteran jazz critic Nat Hentoff to profile her in The Wall Street Journal. It was programmed on more than 100 radio stations in North America and was on the CMJ (College Music Journal) Jazz Top-40 chart for 11 consecutive weeks, 4 in the top-10 and 3 in the top-5 including two weeks at its peak position of 4 and was the 1 jazz add during its add week. Confeddie also appeared on the JazzWeek Top-50 chart 3 times and was among the top 100 jazz CDs in the country for two months. Although she also plays soprano sax, clarinet and flute, Hailey showcases solely her alto sax skills on Confeddie which features a rhythm section composed of fellow Berklee students Michael Palma on piano, Greg Chaplin on bass and Mark Whitfield Jr. on drums. She has delivered an authoritative straight-ahead recording featuring 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.
Hailey hit the road running in May 2009 after completing her first year at Berklee in anticipation of the release of Confeddie. That month she was a featured artist at the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. -- she won the festival’s saxophone competition in 2008 – and her concert was broadcast on NPR’s “JazzSet With Dee Dee Bridgewater” in October 2009. Highlights of Hailey’s previous activities include: representing Berklee in the Downbeat Invitational at the Tri-C Jazz Festival in Cleveland, Ohio; touring with the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra which included performances at the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Netherlands and on the main stage of the 51st Monterey Jazz Festival (2008); playing with the Gibson/Baldwin GRAMMY® Jazz Ensemble in Hollywood and the Jazz Band of America in Indianapolis (2008 & 2007); performing 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 attending the Vail Jazz Workshop under the direction of 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 Jazz Alley in Seattle (2007). In 2006 and 2007 she received scholarships to attend the Berklee College of Music Summer Jazz Workshop under the direction of 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 also a member of Thara Memory’s elite Pacific Crest Jazz Orchestra and Combo. During the summer of 2009, in addition to performing in the Portland area, Hailey taught piano for the second consecutive year to 5-7 year olds and woodwinds to 12-18 year olds at Willowbrook Arts Camp where as an eight-year-old she played her first note on a woodwind (clarinet).