YaoGuang Zhai is currently principal clarinet of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He was appointed by Maestra Marin Alsop in 2016 and is the fist Chinese-born clarinetist ever to hold such a position in a major North American symphony orchestra.
A native of TaiYuan, China, YaoGuang began his musical career at the age of three as a violinist, switching to the clarinet seven years later. In 1999 he entered the China Central Conservatory and then came to the United States in 2003, attending the Idyllwild Arts Academy as a full scholarship student. He continued study at the Curtis Institute of Music and graduated in 2009. In that year he represented the Curtis Institute as solo and chamber music clarinetist, touring the US. His solo performance received the Curtis Institute CD of the Year award. During his study, YaoGuang won the Hellam Competition, Aspen Music Festival Concerto Competition, the Blount-Slawson Young Artists Competition, the Spotlight Award and the Pacific Symphony Concerto Competition. His instructors include distinguished clarinetists Yehuda Gilad, Donald Montanaro, Ricardo Morales and Joaquin Valdepeñas.
YaoGuang was previously Associate Principal Clarinet of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, appointed by Maestro Peter Oundjian, and served as Principal Clarinet of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra for 2 years under Chinese conductor Maestro Long Yu. In 2015, he also won the Associate Principal Clarinet position with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, appointed by Maestro Manfred Honeck. While performing in Toronto the Globe and Mail described his performance as “the most beautiful lyrical playing of the evening” and the Toronto Star spoke of YaoGuang as having “played with mesmerizing grace.”
YaoGuang served as principal clarinet during the live recording of the Messiah with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and conductor Sir Andrew Davis in the year-end 2015 performance released by Chandos Records. He has also recorded for the Royal Conservatory of Music’s exam level commercial CD, which has been sold across North America.
In addition to solo appearances with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Toronto Symphony Orchestra, YaoGuang has performed with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Summer Music Festival Orchestra, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra (China), Pacific Symphony Orchestra, the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra, the American Academy of Conducting Orchestra (Aspen) and the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.
YaoGuang has actively participated in various music festivals as both soloist and chamber musician; among these are The Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival (invited by violinist Cho-Liang Lin); Music From Angel Fire Festival (invited by violinist Ida Kavafian); Laguna Beach Chamber Music Festival (invited by pianist Christopher O’Riley); Aspen Music Festival; Pacific Music Festival in Japan; Beijing International Clarinet Festival; Toronto Summer Music Festival; Chongqing International Clarinet Festival in China and International Clarinet Festival in Taiwan.
YaoGuang Zhai serves as a clarinet faculty member at the Interlochen Summer Music Camp, the Curtis Institute Summer Music Camp, Master-Players Summer Music Festival and National Youth Orchestra of China.
YaoGuang is a Buffet Crampon Clarinet artists.