Born in Russia in 1920, Stern is considered an American violinist. His parents brought him to America when he was ten months old. He grew up in San Francisco and was educated in the public school system. His musical career began at eight when he was given violin lessons at home. He eventually came to be taught by Naourn Blinder, the conductor of the San Francisco Symphony. At the age of 13, Stern played his first recital.
In 1936, Stern made his first professional debut with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. The nationally broadcast concert was the Brahms Violin Concerto with Pierre Monteux as the conductor. Following his debut, he played at the Town Hall in New York in 1937, and finally at Carnegie Hall in 1943. For three decades, Stern traveled nationwide performing solo and with symphonies and orchestras. In 1961, he formed a trio with cellist Leonard Rose and pianist Eugene Istomin.
Stern has devoted his life to standard and classical repertories. He is credited with playing the works of Penderecki, Schuman, Bernstein ,and Peter Maxwell Davies. For 50 years he has recorded exclusively on the Sony Classical label. He has released more than 100 recordings of more than 63 composers. In 1985, Stern was awarded the first "Artist Laureate" for his continuous work and loyalty with the Sony Classical label. A 44-disc collection was released in 1995. The collection, titled Isaac Stern: A Life in Music.
Stern has devoted his time to entertaining audiences with his classical violin playing. His hard work and musical genius have not gone unnoticed. In 1974, he was made Commander of the French Ordre de la Couronne, a Fellow of Jerusalem, and was awarded the Commander's Cross from the Danish government. He has been the president of Carnegie Hall for more than 30 years. He was one of the first recipients of the Albert Schweitzer Music Award, and was awarded the Kennedy Centers Honor Award in 1984. In 1987. he was given the Gold Baton, the American Symphony Orchestra's highest honor. He received the National Medal of the Arts from President Bush in 1991, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992. He holds honorary degrees from Bucknell University, Columbia University, Harvard, the Curtis Institute of Music, Hebrew University, Johns Hopkins, Oxford, Juilliard, and Yale. Despite all this fame and recognition, Isaac Stern saw an important need to teach and mold young musicians. Toward the end of his life, he devoted some of his time to educating young musicians. He died on September 22, 2001 of heart failure in New York City. ~ Kim Summers