Itzhak Perlman

Itzhak Perlman Biography

Songwriter, Conductor (1945–)
Itzhak Perlman is a Grammy and Emmy Award-winning classical musician, highly revered for his work as a violinist and conductor.


Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, on August 31, 1945, Itzhak Perlman was a prodigious talent on the violin, appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show as a teen and studying at the Juilliard School. He went on to become one of the world's most renowned classical musicians and collaborated with an array of talents, going on to work as a conductor as well. His wife, Toby, has established the Perlman Music Program.


Itzhak Perlman was born on August 31, 1945, in Tel Aviv, Israel. He showed great musical aptitude early in life; due to polio, however, his legs became permanently paralyzed at the age of 4. Yet despite doctors' skeptical forecasts about the possibilities of pursuing music, the young Perlman persevered, along with father Chaim, who enrolled his son at the Music Academy of Tel Aviv.

Performs on 'The Ed Sullivan Show'

Perlman soared in terms of his abilities with the violin, and offered his first public concert at the age of 10. He performed on television at 13 years old on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1958, and that same year, attended the Juilliard School, studying under some of violin's greatest figures. In the mid-1960s, he performed at Carnegie Hall and soon after won the esteemed Leventritt Competition.

Also in the mid-'60s, Perlman married Toby Friedlander, whom he knew as a teen. The couple went on to have several children and lived in New York City.

Highly Distinguished Career

Over the following decades, Perlman has become a deeply revered musician who's played with all of the world's renowned orchestras, been featured in special events across the globe and appeared in a variety of media programs, garnering an array of awards and accolades. In 1978, a documentary on Perlman's life was released—Itzhak Perlman: Virtuoso Violinist, by Christopher Nupen.

He has a highly extensive discography, performing the works of such classical music icons as Antonin Dvorak, Wolfgang Mozart, Johannes Brahms, Antonio Vivaldi and Ludwig van Beethoven. In addition, he has collaborated with contemporary figures like Emmanuel Ax, Yo-Yo Ma, Kathleen Battle, Yitzchak Meir Helfgot and Plácido Domingo.

Perlman has also made forays into klezmer (traditional Jewish folk) musical traditions on offerings like the PBS special In the Fiddler's House (1995) and the album Live in the Fiddler's House (1996). He has delivered acclaimed movie music for the big screen as well, collaborating with John Williams on the score for Schindler's List and Memoirs of a Geisha and Tan Dun on the score for Hero.

Awards and Youth Program

Perlman has received more than a dozen Grammys, including the 2008 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also won four Emmy Awards for programs like Perlman in Russia, the aforementioned In the Fiddler's House and Fiddling for the Future.

Known for his generous spirit, Perlman has worked as a teacher at Juilliard, and in 1998 Toby co-founded the Perlman Music Program, an educational, multifaceted resource for young, developing musicians.

In November 2015, the acclaimed violinist and conductor was named one of 17 recipients of the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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