Yoel Levi was born in Romania in 1950 but grew up in Israel. He studied at the Tel Aviv Academy of Music, where he received a master of arts degree, and at the Jerusalem Academy of Music under Mendi Rodan. He also studied with Franco Ferrara in Siena and Rome, with Kirill Kondrashin in Holland, and at the Guildhall School of Music in London. After winning first prize at the 1978 Conductors' International Competition in Besançon, Levi became assistant to Lorin Maazel at the Cleveland Orchestra for six years, serving as resident conductor from 1980 to 1984. From 1988 to 2000 he succeeded Robert Shaw as music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. In June 2001 he was named Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government. Yoel Levi has been the Chief Conductor of the Orchestre National d’Île de France since autumn 2005.
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