YaoGuang Zhai currently serves as the principal clarinetist of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra since 2016. Prior to that, he was the associate principal clarinetist of the Toronto Symphony in Canada and the principal clarinetist of the Shanghai Symphony in China.
YaoGuang has established himself as a sought-after soloist and orchestra player, having performed with several major orchestras, including the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Victoria Symphony Orchestra (Canada), the Toronto Summer Music Festival Orchestra, the Stellenbosch International Music Festival Orchestra (South Africa), the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra (China), the Pacific Symphony Orchestra, the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra, the American Academy of Conducting Orchestra (Aspen), and the Springfield Symphony Orchestras. Additionally, he has served as a guest principal clarinetist with the New York Philharmonic, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.
YaoGuang has played as the principal clarinetist during the live recording of Handel’s Messiah, arranged and conducted by Sir Andrew Davies, with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra 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.
As a chamber musician, YaoGuang has actively participated in various music festivals around the world, including the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival in South Africa, The Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival, Music From Angel Fire Festival, Laguna Beach Chamber Music Festival, Aspen Music Festival, Pacific Music Festival in Japan, Beijing International Clarinet Festival, Toronto Summer Music Festival, Chongqing International Clarinet Festival in China, and the International Clarinet Festival in Taiwan.
YaoGuang is also a respected educator and has held teaching positions at several prestigious institutions, including guest teaching faculty at the Curtis Institute of Music, Valade clarinet faculty at the Interlochen Summer Music Camp, the Curtis Institute Summer Music Camp, Master-Players Summer Music Festival, and National Youth Orchestra of China. He currently serves as an associate professor of clarinet at Boston Conservatory at Berklee.
YaoGuang’s musical journey began at the age of three when he started playing the violin. He later switched to the clarinet and entered the China Central Conservatory in 1999. In 2003, he came to the United States and attended the Idyllwild Arts Academy as a full scholarship student. He continued his studies at the Curtis Institute of Music and graduated in 2009. During his studies, YaoGuang won several competitions, including the Hellam Competition, the Blount-Slawson Young Artists Competition, Aspen Music Festival Concerto 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 Zhai is a Buffet Crampon and Vandoren artist.