Saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Hailey Niswanger
grew up in Portland, Oregon. As a Jazz Performance major at the Berklee College of Music, she released Confeddie, her recording debut as a leader in 2009. 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. It was among the top 100 jazz CDs in the US for two months and was cited by NPR as one of the top 10 jazz CDs of 2009.
The following year, Hailey was chosen for the inaugural class of Berklee’s Global Jazz Institute under the artistic direction of pianist Danilo Perez. After receiving her B.A. in 2011, Hailey moved to Brooklyn, recorded two more albums as a leader (The Keeper, 2012; and PDX Soul, 2015), and relocated to Los Angeles, where she resides today. Aside from leading her own bands, Hailey has shared the stage with Esperanza Spaulding, Terri Lyne Carrington (Hailey recorded flute on Carrington’s Grammy winning album The Mosaic Project), Harvey Mason, and Ralph Peterson, Jr.; and she has performed with Dee Dee Bridgewater, Wynton Marsalis, and Christian McBride. She has been a recurring guest soloist with The Soul Rebels Brass Band, and has performed on Saturday Night Live (with Demi Lovato) and on the Fallon and Letterman shows (with noise pop duo Sleigh Bells).
Seeking more compositional freedom and universal feeling in her music, Hailey formed the band MAE.SUN in 2016 — combining her middle name, Mae, and the brilliant center of our solar system, which Hailey calls the “second heart that connects all life” — after studying the works of Vietnamese Buddhist monk and Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. MAE.SUN Vol. 1: Inter-be, comprised of all original compositions, was released in 2017. The release of MAE.SUN Vol. 2: Into the Flow, followed two years later and featured Hailey on soprano saxophone, flute, and background vocals, as well as lead vocals on the track “Cycle.” Hailey says the release of MAE.SUN Vol. 3 “is in the works.” She played flute on Beyonce’s surprise song release, “Black Parade,” on Juneteenth (June 19, 2020); continues to perform on video recordings with The Side Project, a saxophone quartet; and hopes to put out a MAE.SUN single in September 2020.
LATEST ALBUM RELEASE:
MAE.SUN Vol. 2: Into the Flow was released in 2019.
Hailey remembers “feeling special” as a member of the Vail Jazz Workshop’s 2007 class. “I felt as I was there that it was such an honor to be a part of this very hand-selected group.” She described it as her “first real access to working with some jazz masters, guys that have been doing it for so long. [The Workshop] was super important, and it just drove me deeper into the music and loving it even more . . . Being so fortunate to know at 17 that this is what I wanted to do with my life, that I was on my path for real, and feeling very lucky about that. And Vail definitely helped solidify that.”