Principal clarinet’s journey to Cleveland, via Ethiopia and Canada

Posted on: September 11, 2017

“The Cleveland Orchestra was already one of the greatest. Now it may also be one of the luckiest,” writes Zachary Lewis in Friday’s (9/8) Plain Dealer (Cleveland). “So, at least, claims Yehuda Gilad, the former teacher of Afendi Yusuf, the orchestra’s newly appointed principal clarinet.” This season Yusuf replaces Franklin Cohen, who retired as principal clarinet 2015. “ ‘Any orchestra that gets [Yusuf’s] services will be the luckiest in the world,’ said Gilad, [who] taught Yusuf at the Colburn School…. Yusuf’s ascent to the top of his field straight out of school … was defined, at least in the beginning, by struggle…. At age 11, Yusuf [left] his native Ethiopia—and what Gilad described as ‘hard times’ … to establish a new life with his family in Canada…. [He attended] Wilfrid Laurier University and Toronto’s Glenn Gould School…. In the roughly 100-member Cleveland Orchestra, he’s one of just three African-Americans. That, Yusuf said, puts a real responsibility on his shoulders.… Yusuf said, when it comes to diversity and classical music, ‘I think it’s growing. I know this is just the beginning.… Classical music is for everyone. I think it has so much to offer everyone.’ ”

Posted September 11, 2017

Afendi Yusuf photo by Elena Sippel