Violinist Gil Shaham entered the international spotlight in the 1990s as one of several young solo violinists vying for the attention of audiences the world over. Aided by positive publicity and an enviable recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon, Shaham proved — as a recitalist and through guest appearances with major orchestras — that he was an artist beyond the need for public relations buildup — an artist whose musical gifts would assure him an ongoing presence among the world's leading string players.
Shaham was born on February 19, 1971 in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, but moved at the age of two with his parents to Israel. At the age of seven, he began studies with Samuel Bernstein at the Rubin Academy of Music. Soon he was awarded the first of a series of annual scholarships granted through the American Israel Cultural Foundation. In 1981, he made debuts with both the Israel Philharmonic and the Jerusalem Symphony. The following year, he placed first in the Claremont Competition in Israel and left to enter the Juilliard School of Music in New York as a scholarship student and, later, to attend Columbia University. In 1990, Shaham earned the Avery Fisher Career Grant before embarking on a performing career. During the 1998-1999 season, Shaham participated in a two-week series of concerts by Pierre Boulez and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra devoted to the music of Béla Bartók. Resulting from this mini-festival was a recording of Bartók's Violin Concerto No. 2 and the two Rhapsodies for Violin and Orchestra. In 1998, he undertook a tour of mainland China which included performances with principal orchestras in Beijing and Shanghai. His seriousness as a musician has made him a favored partner for many of the world's leading conductors, and other instrumentalists have been eager to collaborate with him in chamber music performances. Shaham was awarded the Avery Fisher Prize in 2008.