Yeh is currently the assistant principal clarinet as well as solo E flat clarinet for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He joined the Orchestra in 1977, after studying music at Juliard and UCLA, as principal Bass Clarinet. He was only nineteen. As a seventeen year old aspiring musician, this frightens and amazes me. What have I been doing with my life? I couldn't make it in to the CSO in two years no matter how I tried. Yeh is also the recipient of many awards, UCLA's Frank Sinatra Musical Performance Award, and a Grammy for "Chicago Pro Musica" which he organized, as well as critical acclaim on his many performances, including concerto's by Stravinsky, Nielsen, and Carter with the CSO, in concert venue's around the world. He has recently organized an new musical/performance art group called InVenTionS, with clarinetist Teresa Reilly and two mimes, yes mimes. I have not had the pleasure of seeing this new group, but given the amount of expression, both physical and musical, Yeh puts into his performances I question if mimes are even necessary.
I have had the pleasure of working with Mr. Yeh on two occasions. I was formerly a member of the Midwest Young Artists Symphony Orchestra where Yeh lead a clinic for brass woodwinds and percussion. This was the first time I had ever seen the man, but it was instantly clear that he was destined to be a performer. When he conducted us he often looked more as if he was dancing than leading a musical group, and at the same time he was incredibly easy to follow and play with. He gave us simple, straight forward directions, which are often hard to get out of world renowned and highly educated musicians. I truly believe that in the two hours he worked with us on Shostakovich Symphony No. 10 we improved ten fold, especially our principal clarinetist who had many solos.
The second time was with the Glenbrook Symphony Orchestra which serves Glenbrook North and South. His eldest daughter is currently a Junior at south, and his youngest will be a freshman next year. I regret not being a year younger as his youngest is a percussionist. I am lead percussionist at GBS and I would have enjoyed seeing what sort of musical talent and dedication she had inherited and learned from her father. His daughter's involvement in our music program allowed us the luck of having him as a guest soloist for Saint-Saens' Introduction and Rondo and Anderson's Clarinet Candy. Again he displayed an incredible amount of emotion, and motion in his performance, and was incredibly generous performing with us in a free concert, and allowing us to put his performance on our CD pro bono. He performed the difficult concerto magnificently and again offered advice to our clarinet section which seemed to greatly overall sound.
Yeh is a surprisingly accessible and down to earth guy given his accomplishments. Giving credit more to the orchestra than himself, and openly admitting his flaws. His success in the music world is a success that all young musicians should hope imitate. And even if they won't I will.
Sources: www.ChicagoSymphony.com and personal experience