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YaoGuang Zhai joined the Conservatory in 2019 and is an associate professor of clarinet.
YaoGuang is principal clarinet of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, appointed by Maestra Marin Alsop. Prior to that, he was the associate principal clarinet of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for five years, appointed by Maestro Peter Oundjian, and served as principal clarinet of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra for two years under Chinese conductor Maestro Long Yu.
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 to study at the Curtis Institute of Music and graduated in 2009. That year he represented the Curtis Institute as solo and chamber music clarinetist, touring the United States. His solo performance was chosen to be included on Curtis Institute's CD of the year. 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.
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 also serves as a clarinet faculty member at the Interlochen Summer Music Camp, the Curtis Institute Summer Music Camp, the Master-Players Summer Music Festival, and the National Youth Orchestra of China. He is a Buffet Crampon Clarinet and Vandoren artist.