Itzhak Perlman: A Maestro's Journey from Israel to the World

Itzhak Perlman, born on August 31, 1945, is a renowned Israeli-American violinist, conductor, and globally esteemed music educator. Perlman held the conductor's baton for both the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Westchester Philharmonic Orchestra. He achieved the Presidential Medal of Freedom twice, along with the National Medal of Arts. Additionally, he boasts 17 Grammy Awards, 4 Emmy Awards, and, in 2016, received the Genesis Prize.

Perlman was born in Tel Aviv, during the British Mandate of Palestine. His parents, Chaim and Shoshana Perlman, were Polish immigrants who settled in Israel in the mid-1930s.

His initial fascination with the violin was sparked when he heard classical music on the radio. At the age of 3, he was denied entry to the Shulamit Conservatory due to his small size. Instead, he began teaching himself to play the violin using a toy violin until he was old enough to study with Rivka Goldgart at the Shulamit Conservatory and later at the Academy of Music in Tel Aviv. There, he gave his first recital at the age of 10 before moving to the United States to study at the Juilliard School with Dorothy DeLay and Ivan Galamian.

At the age of 4, Perlman contracted polio, and as a result, he used crutches and performed seated.

Perlman made his debut on The Ed Sullivan Show twice, first in 1958 and then again in 1964. He had his Carnegie Hall debut in 1963.

Early on, Perlman started to spend the majority of his time on concert tours. He recorded numerous compositions and, in the 1970s, began appearing on entertainment shows like Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show and the American version of Sesame Street. He also played at various events at the White House.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, he performed in Hollywood Bowl during its peak summer season. He also performed the solo violin parts for the soundtrack of Schindler's List.

On July 5, 1986, Perlman appeared at the New York Philharmonic's tribute to the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty, which was televised live on ABC Television in the United States. The orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta, performed in Central Park.

In 1987, Perlman joined the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra for concerts in Warsaw and Budapest and several other Eastern Bloc cities. He participated in the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra's first concert in the Soviet Union in 1990, performing in Moscow and Leningrad, and again with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in China and India in 1994.

In December 1990, Perlman performed with other Jewish violinists, including Yo-Yo Ma, in a gala concert for the 150th anniversary of Tchaikovsky's birth in Leningrad.


In the early 2000s, Perlman began to conduct. He became the principal conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and, from 2002 to 2004, served as the music advisor of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.

In November 2007, the Westchester Philharmonic announced Perlman as its principal conductor and artistic director. His debut concert in this role took place on October 11, 2008.

Educational Endeavors

In 1975, Perlman became a faculty member at the Conservatory of Music at Brooklyn College.

Today, Perlman teaches at the Juilliard School's Pre-College program. He also provides private instruction to students through the Perlman Music Program on Long Island, New York, and occasionally leads master classes.

Perlman Music Program

The Perlman Music Program, established in 1995 by Toby Perlman and Suki Sandler, initially began as a summer camp for exceptionally talented musicians aged 11 to 18. Over time, it expanded into a year-long program. Musicians in the program have the opportunity to be mentored by Itzhak Perlman himself before performing in venues such as Satu'li Canteen and public schools.

Personal Life

Perlman resides in New York with his wife, Toby, who is also a classical violinist. Together, they have five children. Perlman is a distant cousin of the Canadian comedian and television host Howie Mandel.

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