Feb 26, 2021
Today, I speak with a wonderful storyteller of sound, Assistant Principal Clarinetist of the Chicago Symphony John Bruce Yeh.
In our conversation, John shares how his artistic journey unfolded. He takes us on an amazing trip, featuring great musical figures, which shows the various elements that go into the making of a world-class musician.
He also talks about how to prepare fully for an audition (it involves “raiding” the stage... in a way!), how to enter the professional life, and he gives us amazing insight on music-making in general.
This was a great conversation and I know you’ll walk away inspired and motivated!
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MORE ABOUT JOHN BRUCE YEH:
The first Asian musician ever appointed to the Chicago Symphony
Orchestra, as well as the longest-serving clarinetist in CSO
history, John Bruce Yeh joined the CSO in June of 1977, having been
appointed solo Bass Clarinet of the Orchestra at the age of
nineteen by Sir Georg Solti. Two years later, he was named
Assistant Principal and solo E-flat Clarinet. He served as Acting
Principal Clarinet of the CSO from 2008-2011. Recently he has also
performed as Guest Principal Clarinet of The Philadelphia Orchestra
as well as of the Seoul Philharmonic in Korea and the Guangzhou
Symphony Orchestra in China.
Yeh has performed concertos with the CSO on several occasions, including the 1998 American premiere of Elliott Carter’s Clarinet Concerto with Pierre Boulez conducting, and the 1993 performance of Carl Nielsen’s Clarinet Concertowith Neeme Järvi. A concert recording of the Nielsen was released on the CSO CD set Soloists of the Orchestra II: From the Archives, vol. 15. In 2004, Yeh was featured in Leonard Bernstein’s Prelude, Fugue and Riffs in collaboration with the Hubbard Street Dance Company and the CSO conducted by David Robertson. An enthusiastic champion of new music, John Bruce Yeh is the dedicatee of new works for clarinet by numerous composers, ranging from Ralph Shapey to John Williams.
A prizewinner at both the 1982 Munich International Music Competition and the 1985 Naumburg Clarinet Competition in New York, Yeh continues to solo with orchestras around the globe. His more than a dozen solo and chamber music recordings have earned worldwide critical acclaim. In 2007, Naxos International released a disc titled “Synergy,” of single and double concertos with clarinet and symphonic wind ensemble featuring John, his wife Teresa, his daughter Molly, and the Columbus State University Wind Ensemble conducted by Robert Rumbelow.
Yeh is director of Chicago Pro Musica, which received the Grammy Award in 1986 for Best New Classical Artist. He frequently appears at festivals and on chamber music series worldwide, and he has performed several times with Music from Marlboro; the Guarneri, Ying, Colorado, Pacifica, Calder, and Avalon string quartets; as well as the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
With his wife, clarinetist Teresa Reilly, erhu virtuoso Wang Guowei, and pipa virtuoso Yang Wei, Yeh formed Birds and Phoenix an innovative quartet dedicated to musical exploration by bridging Eastern and Western musical cultures. In their debut performance in September 2006, the group performed works by Victoria Bond, Pamela Chen, Lu Pei, and Bright Sheng, all commissioned for them by Fontana Chamber Arts in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Passionately committed to music education, Yeh served for twenty-six years on the faculty of DePaul University’s School of Music, and he joined the faculty at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College for the Performing Arts in 2004. He has taught master classes at many universities and conservatories including the Juilliard, Eastman and Manhattan Schools of Music, The Cleveland Institute of Music, Northwestern University, and the University of Michigan. In addition, he is on the faculty of Midwest Young Artists in Fort Sheridan, Illinois.
Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Los Angeles, John Bruce Yeh pursued premedical studies at UCLA, where he also won the Frank Sinatra Musical Performance Award. He entered the Juilliard School in 1975 and attended music schools in Aspen, Marlboro, and Tanglewood. He cites Gordon Herritt, Gary Gray, Michele Zukovsky, Harold Wright, Ray Still, Marcel Moyse, Allan Dennis, and Mehli Mehta as influential mentors.
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A HUGE thank you to my fantastic producer, Bella Kelly, who works so hard to make the podcast sound as good as possible for you.
Most sincere thank you to composer Jim Stephenson who graciously provided the show’s musical theme! Concerto #1 for Trumpet and Chamber Orchestra – Movement 2: Allegro con Brio, performed by Jeffrey Work, trumpet, and the Lake Forest Symphony, conducted by Jim Stephenson.
Thank you to Susan Blackwell for the introduction! You can find out more about Susan, her fantastic podcast The Spark File, and her work helping creatives of all backgrounds expand their impact by visiting https://www.susanblackwell.com/home.
Also a HUGE thank you to my fantastic producer, Bella Kelly!
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