Few artists can say they're career launch involved both superstar rapper Kanye West and Carnegie Hall favorite Isaac Stern, but Hip-hop violinist Miri Ben-Ari can. When the Israeli-born virtuoso's family couldn't afford her violin lessons anymore, it was Stern who stepped in, gifting the young prodigy a violin. She was later chosen to play in the prestigious Israeli Army String Quartet and fell in love with jazz, a love that brought her to the United States and the Mannes School of Music in New York City. Straight out of school she released her debut in 1999. Titled Sahara and released on the Half Note label, the album drew positive reviews, most pointing out how sure and diverse this new violinist sounded. Recorded live at the famous Blue Note Club, 2003's Temple of Beautiful furthered Ben-Ari's status as an up-and-coming jazz musician.
But Ben-Ari's love of music knew no borders, and even the diverse world of jazz couldn't contain her for long. She became a studio musician, and while most studio musicians play their bits without too much of an impact, Ben-Ari's genuine love of R&B and hip-hop was soon to take her from the background to the foreground. Sessions for Britney Spears, Alicia Keys, Patti LaBelle, Joe, Wyclef Jean, and many more led her to Kanye West. West hired Ben-Ari to write, produce, arrange, and perform all of the strings on his smash debut album, The College Dropout. The team also worked on Twista's hit single "Overnight Celebrity" and its accompanying video, which gave Ben-Ari plenty of face time on BET and MTV. A feature spot on tour with Kanye West and appearances on BET's 106 & Park and Rap City had audiences talking about this new hip-hop star and set the stage for her more street-savvy third album, The Hip Hop Violinist, released by Universal in 2005. . A year later she co-founded she co-founded Gedenk, a not-for-profit youth organization fighting against anti-Semitism and promoting Jewish Holocaust education. Her 2007 single "Symphony of Brotherhood," featuring the "I Have a Dream" speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., would climb to number two on Billboard's R&B/hip-hop chart while in 2011 she became the first Israeli to receive the Martin Luther King Award from Israeli president, Shimon Peres. That same year she was invited to the White House by Michelle Obama to be honored as a "Remarkable Woman", with a return visit arranged for 2012, this time to perform for the President, Barack Obama. ~ David Jeffries