Jacques Israelevitch was born on May 6, 1948, in Cannes, France, to parents Simone and Isadore. Growing up at a time when antisemitism was on the rise, the family often found themselves forced out of their clothing business.
Despite facing widespread antisemitism, Israelevitch grew up to become an internationally renowned violinist, working as a professional concertmaster, soloist, chamber musician, teacher and conductor. At 11 years old, he graduated from the Le Mans Conservatory; making him the youngest-ever graduate in the history of the institution. He subsequently went on to study with Henryk Szeryng and Rene Benedetti at the Conservatoire de Paris, winning three prizes by age 16. Israelevitch then completed his studies at Indiana University alongside acclaimed musicians, Josef Gingold, Janos Starker, William Primrose and Menahem Pressler.
While completing his studies in Indiana, he developed an interest in chamber and orchestral music and began his orchestral career as the assistant concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the leadership of Sir Georg Solti. Subsequently, he served as concertmaster of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra for 10 seasons, before being appointed as concertmaster of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) from 1988 to 2008, the longest tenure in TSO history.During his time with the TSO, Israelevitch was best known for his role as concertmaster. However, he also made significant contributions to the orchestra as a teacher, recording artist, and conductor. In conjunction with the orchestra, Israelevitch recorded works by Ludwig van Beethoven and R. Murray Schafer, violin works by Edvard Grieg and Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante. Israelevitch also served as Music Director of the Koffler Chamber Orchestra at the Koffler Centre of the Arts from 2005 to 2014.
In 1999, Israelevitch formed the Israelevitch Duo with his son, Michael, a percussionist. The Duo commissioned and premiered works by many notable contemporary composers and produced the CD Hammer and Bow.
Israelevitch also had a passion for teaching music and gave countless master classes at numerous institutions such as Indiana University. He was a faculty member of the University of Toronto, the Royal Conservatory of Music and York University, as well as the chair of strings at the Chautauqua Institution, where he taught violin performance and chamber music.
In 1995, Israelevitch was given the title of Chevalier (knight) of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, an honour bestowed upon him by France. He was then named Officier of the Order in 2004, one of France’s highest cultural honours.
In 2015, Jacques Israelievitch was named a Member of the Order of Canada in 2015. Today, Israelevitch is remembered for his outstanding contributions to music and his impact on Canadian arts and culture.