Chicago Symphony Orchestra clarinetist John Bruce Yeh speaks on musicians strike


“It seems to be class warfare”

Chicago Symphony Orchestra clarinetist John Bruce Yeh speaks on musicians strike

George Marlowe

15 April 2019

Musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) are currently in the sixth week of their longest-ever strike. Last week, they courageously rejected the intransigent “last, best and final” offer of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA), which could destroy their pensions and lower the artistic standards of the symphony.

At last week’s free concert at St. James Cathedral, which was one of many widely attended and successful free concerts performed by the musicians, the WSWS spoke with striking CSO musician John Bruce Yeh about the issues at stake in the strike.

Yeh joined the CSO in 1977 at the age of 19 and is the longest-tenured clarinetist in the orchestra’s history. Yeh has been the assistant principal clarinetist and E-flat clarinetist. In 1979, he became the founder and director of the chamber ensemble, Chicago Pro Musica. The first recording of the ensemble of Igor Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du soldatwon the 1985 Grammy award for the best new classical artist. Yeh also taught at DePaul University’s School of Music for more than two decades and joined the faculty of Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts in 2004.

Interview with John Yeh at St. James Cathedral. Video edited by Michael Walters

Yeh, a charismatic performer and music educator, spoke about the strike last week and its broader implications. “We’ve been on strike into the fifth week,” he said. “This is unprecedented in the 128 years of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. It is a very serious and dire situation that we have been put into.

“When I joined in 1977, we were clearly the leaders in all aspects of…

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