I met John when we were both students of Joe Allard at the Juilliard School in the mid-1970s. John was a very energetic and passionate clarinetist who thrived on performing in many musical scenarios and took advantage of every opportunity presented. It was clear that he was destined to succeed, and it surprised none of us when he won the bass clarinet chair in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the age of 19. That young enthusiasm for the clarinet and music-making has continued to this day, as one can infer from this video interview. His many recordings with the CSO and Chicago Pro Musica are a testament to his musical growth and sophistication. John’s respect and admiration for his teachers–Gordon Herritt, Gary Gray, Michelle Zukovsky, Joe Allard–as well as his clarinet idol, Harold Wright, is shown during this interview. Also evident is the commitment to carry on the educational legacy left by these mentors through his teaching. When one considers that John continues to be active as a chamber player, recitalist, recording artist, educator, clinician, proponent of new music, in addition to his orchestral responsibilities, it becomes clear why I consider him The Complete Clarinetist.
About the Artist: John Bruce Yeh’s career has had a meteoric rise. Raised in Los Angeles, John showed great aptitude at an early age having been honored with the Frank Sinatra Musical Performance Award while still an undergraduate at UCLA. In 1975 at age 17, he transferred to the Juilliard School and two years later, he won the bass clarinet position with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In 1979, John became their associate principal clarinet. During his career, he has continued to achieve a long list of accomplishments. His love for performing chamber music and contemporary works allowed him to be a founding member of the New York New Music Ensemble, the Grammy Award-winning Chicago Pro Musica, Double Dialogue, and the innovative quartet Birds and Phoenix. John was a prize winner at both the Munich and Naumberg Competitions in the 1980s. He has been a concerto soloist worldwide and has played the Nielsen and Carter Clarinet Concertos with the CSO. A frequent recitalist in and around Chicago, John has appeared at the Marlboro Music Festival, Taipei Music Academy Festival, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and with the Guarneri, Ying, Colorado, Pacifica, and Avalon string quartets. A recording artist with over a dozen solo and chamber albums to his credit, his latest recording is Liquid Melancholy available on Cedille Records. An upcoming solo project is entitled Chicago Clarinet Classics and will be released in 2023. John is on the faculty at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College for the Performing Arts as well as the Midwest Young Artists Conservatory. He has been a Yamaha and Vandoren Artist for over 30 years. John Bruce Yeh is celebrating his 45th year with the CSO and is now the longest serving clarinetist in that orchestra’s history!