Miri Ben-Ari is a musician whose work and association with rappers have earned her the title of “the hip-hop violinist.”
Born in the Tel Aviv District of Israel on December 4, 1978, Ben-Ari began learning how to play the violin at the age of five and within a few years, earned the attention of Yehudi Menuhin and Isaac Stern. The latter would gift her a violin courtesy of his foundation, and also become one of her many teachers later in life.
During her mandatory military service, she played in the Israel Defense Forces Orchestra and was entranced by a Charlie Parker album, which became the catalyst in her shift from classical to jazz. After serving, Ben-Ari moved to the United States to study jazz at the the Mannes College of Music before being kicked out due to attendance issues.
Her breakout period came in 2001, with her first being a part of Wyclef Jean’s performance at Carnegie Hall, and then performing as a headliner at the annual Hot 97 Summer Jam concert a few months later. Her profile continued to increase with her appearing on Alicia Keys‘ debut single “Fallin'” in 2001, Twista’s 2004 hit “Overnight Celebrity,” multiple songs on Kanye West’s debut album The College Dropout and much more. She has released five albums to date, including her only major label album The Hip-Hop Violinist in 2005.
Ben-Ari is the recipient of many accolades. She holds a Grammy Award for her work on Kanye’s song “Jesus Walks” in addition to other awards. She was an honoree at the Jewish Women International’s Women To Watch of 2007, and was even invited to the White House in 2011 by then-First Lady Michelle Obama to both perform and be recognized as one of twenty-two “remarkable women” during a Women’s History Month event.