Violinist and sometime conductor Itzhak Perlman was born in Tel Aviv, Israel in 1945 to Polish émigré parents. He was crippled by polio at age four, and so always plays seated. His exceptional talent and great charm, coupled with his irrepressible joy in making music, have rendered him an acclaimed classical musician. As an example of his ready wit, when Mike Wallace observed in an interview with Perlman that many great violinists are Jewish, he replied: "You see, our fingers are circumcised, which gives it a very good dexterity, you know, particularly in the pinky."
Like so many great musicians, Perlman found his gift early: he gave his first public recital at age nine. He was taken to the United States at the age of thirteen to participate in Ed Sullivan's Caravan of Stars, a traveling musical showcase for gifted children, and after the gruelling tour was over, decided to stay. He was given a scholarship to study at the Juilliard School, where he was a pupil of Ivan Galamian and Dorothy DeLay. He won the prestigious Leventritt Competition in 1964, cementing his reputation as a formidable soloist.
He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1963, while still a teenager, and his British debut in 1968. He often performs with fellow greats Daniel Barenboim, Pinchas Zukerman, and Yo-Yo Ma, and he has joined the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra for a number of historic tours: to Warsaw and Budapest in 1987; to the Soviet Union in 1990, where he was cheered by audiences in Moscow and Leningrad; and on their first visit to China and India in 1994. He also teamed up with four klezmer bands to create "In the Fiddler's House", explaining that this traditional Jewish Eastern European music is in his blood, having accented all the celebrations of his life.
Perlman has been much decorated. Ronald Reagan presented Perlman with the Medal of Liberty in 1986; he has been on the cover of Newsweek magazine, and Harvard, Yale, Brandeis, Roosevelt, Yeshiva and Hebrew Universities are among the institutions that have awarded him honorary doctorates. He was featured on the soundtrack for "Schindler's List" and has been on shows as diverse as Sesame Street and the Tonight Show. He has hosted several PBS specials, and a film of his historic trip to the Soviet Union with the Israel Philharmonic, "Perlman in Russia", won an Emmy award for best music documentary in 1992.
Perlman became an American citizen in 1974. He lives in New York with his wife Toby and their family.