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 19 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 in China. He has also performed as a guest musician with the Hong Kong Philharmonic and St. Petersburg’s Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre.
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 Concerto with 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 prize winner 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 released a disc titled Synergy, of single and double concertos with clarinet and symphonic wind ensemble featuring John and his wife Teresa Reilly on clarinets, his daughter Molly Yeh on percussion, and the Columbus State University Wind Ensemble, from Georgia, conducted by Robert Rumbelow. In April 2018, Cedille Records released John’s solo disc “Liquid Melancholy,” featuring clarinet music of the Chicago composer James M Stephenson, with collaborations by Chicago Pro Musica members Patrick Godon, piano, Soyoung Bae and Cornelius Chiu, violins, Danny Lai, viola, Daniel Katz, cello, Alex Klein, oboe, and with the Lake Forest Symphony conducted by Vladimir Kulenovic.
Yeh is director of Chicago Pro Musica, which received the 1985 Grammy Award as “Best New Classical Artist.” He frequently appears at festivals and on chamber music series worldwide. Yeh 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. For 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. Their recording of Victoria Bond’s “Bridges” is available on the disc titled “Peculiar Plants” issued by Albany Records.
Passionately committed to music education, Yeh served for 26 years on the faculty of DePaul University’s School of Music, and in 2004 joined the artist-faculty at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College for the Performing Arts where he continues to teach. He has given master classes at many universities and conservatories including the Juilliard, Eastman and Manhattan Schools of Music, the Cleveland Institute of Music, Northwestern University and University of Michigan. He was a faculty performing artist for Yo-Yo Ma’s Festival “Youth Music Culture Guandong 2018,” and also served as the clarinet section coach of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago for 13 years. 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.
John is the proud father of Jenna Yeh, a culinary artist and wine specialist in Chicago; Molly Yeh, a percussionist and Food Network TV personality in East Grand Forks, Minnesota; and multi-talented middle schooler Mia Reilly-Yeh.