Yeagley’s first conscious encounter with Jews was through the Bible stories his mother read to him. (His pediatrician was a Dr. Bielstein, and his first dentist was Dr. Taubman, but in early childhood, Yeagley was not aware that Jews were part of the public.) Yeagley thought of Abraham, Moses, and David as the Jews, and particularly Moses. In his early childhood, there was one Mike Andrecek who was a member of the Seventh-Day Adventist church where Yeagley attended. Yeagley thought something was different about him, and one day asked his mother about him. “Oh, he’s Jewish,” she said. Yeagley remembers goose bumps coming on him. “You mean like Moses?!” he earnestly inquired. It was an unforgettable association. Yeagley’s childhood affections for Bible stories and indeed the glory of God have throughout his life been invoked at the sight of, or even the thought of a Jew. His mother’s story telling made permanent impressions on him, and in the case of the Jew, the stories made positive impressions.
When, at thirteen, Yeagley exhibited his talents at classical piano playing, he was “discovered” by a Jewish woman named Frances Bloom. Mrs. Bloom brought Yeagley into what high society there was in Oklahoma City. In a short time, Yeagley had distinguished himself as the leading young pianist of the Southwest. Once, an insurance tycoon from Dallas offered Yeagley his two concert tickets to hear Artur Rubinstein perform there with the Dallas Symphony. Mrs. Bloom took Yeagley and his mother, and the story was even written up in the Oklahoma papers.
Yeagley learned about art, artistry, and the exclusive life style of the concert artist from Mrs. Bloom. Her influence, other than that of his piano teacher at the time, Ernestine Scott, was one of the most telling of all. Mrs. Bloom understood what it meant to sacrifice, to endure and to value the precious.
Sanford Margolis was Yeagley’s piano teacher at Oberlin for the last two critical years, when Yeagley became serious about composing. Without the understanding and support of Mr. Margolis, Yeagley could not have succeeded in graduating as a pianist, performing his own compositions.
Yeagley was introduced to formal Jewish studies through Rabbi David Blumenthal, at Emory University. Professor Blumenthal had a rather abrupt personality, which was simply the result of the fact that he dispensed with formalities, gratuities, and amenities. After encountering Yeagley’s attempts at academic writing, he said, “Mr. Yeagley, you are a poet. You are incapable of writing a scholarly paper. You should immediately leave the university.” These words haunted Yeagley for the rest of his education, and in once sense have proven prophetic. Only the Persians, with their insatiable taste for the grand, the noble, and the elite, have shown appreciation for Yeagley’s style of academic writing. Yeagley has published several works in Persian Heritage, but he has published only two academic papers in American journals. In fact, both works are in the same journal, one of the more broad minded, called the Journal of the American Liszt Society. Franz Liszt, of course, was one of the most omnivorous and omnipresent spirits of 19th century European culture.
It was in 1980 that Yeagley moved next door to a Jewish family in Hamden, Connecticut. This special family, the Croogs, including the grandfather, the parents, and three children, one son of whom was Yeagley’s age, became Yeagley’s second family. Yeagley ate Shabbat dinner with them, attended synagogue service with them, and observed the Jewish holidays with them. They were Conservative Jews, so Yeagley got a “middle of the road” Jewish education, although they freely talk with him about Reform and Orthodox Judaism. Yeagley usually attended Beth Shalom, in Hamden, but also B’nai Jacob in Woodbridge. He went to many mid-week lectures as well.
During his years in Connecticut, Yeagley had two different major illnesses. In both cases, in the late ‘70’ and early ‘90’s, his oncologists were Jewish. The first, Dr. Harvey Kaetz was definitely a father figure, and Yeagley felt the same trust he’d felt as a child with Dr. Bielstein. The second was Dr. Dennis Cooper. Dr. Kaetz was retired, but still making rounds, and encouraged Yeagley to have confidence in young Dr. Cooper.
Once Yeagley had a motorcycle accident, and found himself dealing with three different Jewish attorneys. Yeagley was hit by a car, but walked away. One attorney saw millions, one saw nothing, and the third saw a basic insurance collection. “It was like an ancient parable or something,” Yeagley recalls. “Jewish people, collectively, are like a rabbi. Jewish people are a teaching phenomenon. I always learn.” He decided to go with Attorney Peter Lerner, of Woodbridge, for the simple insurance collection. Yeagley had an estate job in Woodbridge, and, with only a bicycle for transportation, he chose Lerner really because of the necessary convenience.
While living in Hartford, at Hartt School of Music, Yeagley accompanied students in the studio of Elaine Malbin, the soprano. Yeagley learned much about voice from her. Yeagley also Ted Dubitzky, a amateur opera tenor with a professional voice. Yeagley. These singers, both Jewish, were significant influences in Yeagley’s musical life.
In 1991, Yeagley was on serious chemotherapy, and during that year he also was accepted into the School of Music at the University of Arizona, Tucson. The trip from Connecticut to Arizona was a challenge, but, Diane von Furstenberg (ne Haflin, nice Jewish girl from Brussels, living in Manhattan), was kind enough to buy the portraits Yeagly did of her, and thus he was able to make the journey.
At Arizona, Yeagley met Dan Asia, his composition teacher. Asia was Jewish, and in fact one of the leading younger American composers. Under Asia’s influence, Yeagley for the first time faced the ideological challenges of contemporary classical music. “I always hated contemporary music,” Yeagley says. “Somehow, Asia’s rabbinical clarity and pedagogical care convinced me to get involved.” Before Yeagley’s doctorate was complete, he had begun established an entirely new system of harmonic organization, and became ideologically competent in contemporary art issues.
In 1998, Yeagley met Jack P. Eisner, a Warsaw Ghetto Resistance survivor. This meeting was at Yeagley’s compositional debut in Caesarea, Israel. Eisner saw special talent in Yeagley, and the two met again several times in New York. Yeagley wrote the first grand opera about the Jewish Holocaust, based on the story of Jack Eisner, and, though the opera has not yet been performed, “Jacek” has been endorsed by both the conductor Zubin Mehta and the composer Krystoff Penderecki.
It was in January, 2001, that Yeagley introduced himself to David Horowitz, and came under the journalistic tutelage of Richard Poe (who had studied with Allen Ginsberg). Horowitz and Poe are both Jewish. Since then, Yeagley has become a nationally known columnist, and has appeared on radio shows across the country.
At every significant turning point in his life, Yeagley says the pivotal element was always a Jewish person. Whether in matters concerning his health, or his professions, the person who enabled the change or the progress was Jewish. Yeagley says that even the success of his ideas in Iranian studies is due to the fact that he specializes in ancient Persian-Jewish relations. Yeagley has become acquainted with the modern Iranian Jewish community as a result, has befriended such luminaries as Prof. Amnon Netzer. The future of these Iranian-Jewish relations is still developing.