the inaugural interview: john yeh (aka DAD)

behold, my pops!! (seen here with the famous and illustrious marianne chen, my makeshift auntie- in the most embarrasing photo i could find of him on facebook)

the basics

full name: john bruce yeh

birthdate: 05.23.1957

hometown: los angeles, ca

occupation: musician, chicago symphony orchestra

my name is yeh: welcome to my blog, paternal unit! did you know that this is what i was fidgeting with on my computer last night when you yelled at me for being anti-social?
john bruce yeh: no i did not! but thank you for explaining such
m: so let's start off easy... what would be your last meal on earth?
j: it would have to be extremely large, bulk food. yes, extremely bulk food. it would have to have a large variety of food items including, but not limited too: paella (my favorite food item), caviar, probably small tastings of molecular gastronomy, and of course charlie trotter would have to be involved... oh and of course (your sister) jenna would have to contribute.

(sister jenna, more commonly known as stoop)

m: was your meal at charlie trotter's the best meal you ever ate?
j: yes. that, or alinea
m: favorite composer?
j: mozart. other favorites include stravinsky and schoenberg.
m: favorite piece of music?
j: that's tough. you're asking such hard questions!
m: if you had to have musical accompaniment to your last meal?
j: either mozart or brahms.. something extended like the gran partita... or... (he gets distracted and has to ask for directions to the freeway. we are, by the way, en route from los angeles to la jolla).
m: favorite daughter?

m: if you weren't a musician, what would your job be?
j: prolly a kind of doctor. but at this point i might have changed. so maybe a chef.
m: what's it like having a 3 year old daughter and a 23 year old daughter?
j: i think it's pretty cool. you guys can learn from each other and have very cool experiences together and for me i'm going through fatherhood twenty years later again and it's really interesting because i learned from experience but at the same time i have less energy. i think it's especially cool for mia because she can learn from such older siblings and i think it helps her to be more mature.
m: you've had the same job for 32 years now, what keeps you excited to go back every day?
j: we play new pieces, we have new colleagues, and we have new performances of the same pieces that we've played time after time and we try to do them to a higher level...and the great masterpieces require many different interpretations.
(john yells at me for the capitalization thing. what gives?).
m: what's the worst part of your job?
j: the stress.
m: the principal clarinet position in the cso has been open for quite some time, and you've auditioned for it twice but haven't won. how does that feel? and what will be different about the third time around?
j: the third time will hopefully be the charm. i've learned so much over the past two years of auditioning and its a process that continues. the audition process is so different from day to day performance preparation.

m: tell us about your audition preparation.
j: you have to imagine how you would sound in an empty hall and still imagine the orchestral context. i always knew that you have to show knowledge of orchestral context, but now i've learned that you also have to sound attractive in an isolated situation. if you play exactly the way you would play in an orchestra during the audition, you might not have as good as results as if you tweeked things so you sound really good by yourself. sometimes i think you have to be more in a box in an audition because if you play with an orchestra, they give you more latitude to do things out of the box. this is sort of ironic actually. but that's been my experience.
m: do you use beta blockers?
j: i don't even know what those are.
m: what do you eat before an audition?
j: a few days before i have a lot of pasta. the morning of, eggs, or something else with protein.
m: caffeine?
j: absolutely not.

m: did you party or go crazy in college?
j: nope. no substances. the craziest thing i did was sneak into carnegie hall on a regular basis.
m: what was dan druckman like in college?
j: what? dan druckman??! he was pretty much like he is now. very serious but at the same time casual and laid back. he was a really really cool, but serious dude.

dan druckman and daughter holly

m: how many girlfriends did you have before my mum?
j: well that depends on what you would consider a girlfriend... when i was in high school, it was carol robinson. when i first got into the cso, it was nina allen. she played the horn and her father invented the allen wrench. at juilliard, i wanted diane barere to be my girlfriend. but she didn't really want to be my girlfriend.
m: ouch. sorry bout that. so that's all of the questions. any final words? no more than ten.
j: live clean, live full, live with your ears and your eyes open. is that ten words?
m: sure. we didn't go to math school.