John Yao

Assistant Professor
Affiliated Departments

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For over 15 years, John Yao has been honing his talents as a trombonist, composer, and arranger, cementing his place in the New York City jazz scene. Yao’s lyrical soloing, expressive and round tone, and relentless drive to push the boundaries of harmony and rhythm have established him as a unique and forward-thinking jazz talent. Masterfully leading and composing the music for both his large and small ensembles, Yao has released five albums as a leader, all of which are critically acclaimed.

As a trombonist, Yao has worked extensively as a sideman for Grammy-winning New York City ensembles such as the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra. He has also performed with Paquito D’Rivera, Eddie Palmieri, Danilo Pérez, Chris Potter, Kurt Elling, the New Cuban Express Big Band, the Terraza 7 Big Band, and others. He cohosts a bimonthly jam session at Terraza 7 in his home neighborhood of Jackson Heights, Queens. Yao is currently an assistant professor of trombone at Berklee College of Music and adjunct music faculty at Molloy College.

Career Highlights
  • Composer, performer, and bandleader of John Yao and His 17-Piece Instrument and John Yao's Triceratops, two ensembles with all-original compositions that perform in New York City and have multiple recordings
  • Played with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, and others
  • Commissioned to compose and arrange music for various big bands in Europe, including the Arsonore Spirit Orchestra and JMI World Jazz Orchestra
  • BMI Jazz Composers Workshop (2012–2014)
  • Aaron Copland School of Music Jazz Award (2007)
  • M.M., Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, jazz performance (2007)
  • B.M., Indiana University, jazz studies (2000)
In Their Own Words

"My goal is for my students to come away from my lessons with the knowledge and tools necessary to grow and develop as musicians and as people. I strive to give them fundamental skills needed to survive in the music industry today. I aim to help students find their own voice as performers and writers. The best compliment someone can give you is to tell you that you sound like you."

"My experience as trombonist, composer, arranger, and bandleader has been an invaluable resource in my teaching. I look forward to sharing all that I've learned in each of these different roles with my students."