Daisy Yao Plays Lead Sax at JEN Conference in New Orleans

daisy yao with others at jen conferencedaisy yao playing sax

(Above left) Wycliffe Gordon, Daisy Yao, Jim Hegedus, Erik Donough pose for a picture after The Jazz House Kids’ performance.

(Above right) Tia Fuller and Daisy Yao Performing in the Women in Jazz Jam Session / Meet ‘n Greet.


Earlier this school year, Livingston High School Senior, Daisy Yao played lead alto saxophone with the Montclair-based Jazz House Kids School for Jazz Big Band at the Jazz Educators Network (JEN) Conference in New Orleans, LA. The audition-only School for Jazz is a Pre-College academy and award-winning flagship training program providing extensive instruction for advanced students from across New Jersey and New York. 

Directed by Nathan Eklund, the band included a special performance by jazz trombonist and international recording artist, Wycliffe Gordon. In addition to leading the saxophone section through their hour-long performance, Daisy was a featured soloist on the Ella Fitzgerald classic, “I Ain't Got Nothin’ But The Blues.” Some of Daisy’s favorite memories of the JEN Conference include meeting and playing alongside Gordon, saxophonist Jeff Coffin (The Dave Matthews Band, Béla Fleck and the Flecktones), and Tia Fuller (Suga Mama, Kit McClure Band), Rudresh Mahanthappa (Princeton University, solo artist), and many other stars of the jazz world while at the JEN conference. 

Two jazz ensemble directors from Livingston are incredibly thankful to their administrators for the opportunity to cheer on Daisy from the audience in New Orleans. Mr. Jim Hegedus, Livingston High School Lancer Jazz Band director, and Mr. Erik Donough, Heritage Middle School Junior Lancer Jazz Band director, both attended the conference.


The JEN Conference is held every year in a different city, but for its 15th anniversary, the four-day jazz education extravaganza returned to the birthplace of jazz - New Orleans, Louisiana. Every year, the Conference brings together jazz beginners through experts for a once-in-a-lifetime event. Part inspirational music festival, part networking event, and part educational experience, the annual conference hosts thousands of jazz lovers from around the world. The JEN Conference offers a variety of sessions and clinics to fit every attendee’s jazz interest. Educators learn about pedagogy, research, technology, music business, improvisation, composition, panel discussions, and more.