Pinchas Zukerman was born in Tel Aviv. His parents were Jews who had survived the Nazi concentration camps and had moved from Poland to Israel in 1947. By the time he was eight he showed great musical promise and started to learn music at the Academy of Music in Tel Aviv. When the violinist Isaac Stern heard him play he was so impressed that he helped him to go to the Julliard School of Music in New York. There he studied with Ivan Galanian. In 1967 Zukerman shared a joint first prize in the Leventritt International Competition with Kyung Wha Chung. Then Stern became ill and could not play in some concerts, so Zukerman played instead. This made him famous.
After hearing Daniel Barenboim conduct the English Chamber Orchestra he became interested in conducting. He started to conduct orchestras while playing the solo parts of works by Bach and Vivaldi. This conducting (leading) from the concertmaster’s chair had been the tradition in the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1974 he conducted the English Chamber Orchestra. Then he got opportunities to conduct New York Philharmonic, the National Symphony, Boston Symphony, and Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestras. In the 1980s he was the musical director of the St Paul Chamber Orchestra. For many years he continued to appear as soloist with some of the best orchestras in the world. He won many awards, including two Grammy Awards.
In recent years Zukerman has worked hard to help young musicians. As music director of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, he started the Young Artists Program, a summer training program for talented young classical musicians. It soon became popular, with students from all over the world.
Although he had a lot of work in Ottawa he also found time to be music director of the Ilona Feher Music Center in Holon, Israel, which he started. He became chairman of the Pinchas Zukerman Performance Program at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City. He was also artist in residence of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.