“I was told I was supposed to say something first and then you were going to ask me questions,” joked violinist, Itzhak Perlman.

The Israeli-born, 70-year-old violin-legend chatted with Senior Vice President for Business, Finance, and Technology, Gerald Whittington about his childhood, career, accolades, and even his love of food.

Elon University students faculty, and staff in addition to community members gathered in Alumni Gym for the 2015 Fall Convocation titled “A Conversation with Itzhak Perlman” on Tuesday October 6th.


Whittington began his questioning with Perlman’s early years. 

Perlman knew he wanted to play the violin at age three, and was stricken with polio a year later. But that didn’t stop this Music Man.

“It’s one of the most difficult instruments at such an early age,” said Perlman.

Finding a teacher was also challenging. Perlman explained how his parents found his first teacher stumbling upon a man playing in a coffee shop. But was soon fired for not teaching him more. Then his parents decided to go to a local academy whom he took lessons from for eight years. She taught him to practice scales for one hour every day.

By the time he was seven he was practicing three hours every day.

And his hard work paid off. Ed Sullivan came to Israel to host his TV show abroad and showcase Israel. This led Perlman to try out for the show when he was just 13 years old. Perlman was on the show three times in his early teenage years. He proceeded to appear on it again before going to Julliard when he was 18.


His career has been a lengthy one. And Perlman says his goal is to, “concentrate enough on the music and keep my interest on what I’m doing.”

This has led him to conduct and teach others.

In 1995 he and his wife, Toby, began the Perlman Music Program in 1995 to teach 11-18-year-old music students for the summer. She wanted to discourage competition while emphasizing the importance of concentration and hard work in music.

“Concentration is a double-edged sword,” said Perlman suggesting one must practice their instrument, meticulously listening to ensure each note is played precisely. Because if one note is practiced incorrectly twenty times, then when it comes to perform that note will be performed incorrectly.


Perlman rehearses his violin and his cooking skills.

“I adore to cook,” said Perlman.

He says he finds cooking Italian food very easy, but his VitaMix allows him to cream soups without any cream. His mother’s and wife’s homemade chicken noodle soups are his favorite.

But after all the talk about his passions, the audience had the opportunity to let their ears hear a new tone.

Perlman played his 301 year old Stradivarius violin worth over $15.6 million dollars because words alone could not describe his performance.

The melodious sounds captured the attention of many students.

Overall, many were in awe captivated by his precision with his violin and gravitated by his overall prestige.