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. Milestones from this period include an extensive European tour in 1991; the nomination of the Atlanta Symphony as Best Orchestra of the Year for 1991-92 by the committee of the first annual International Classical Music Awards; and a highly successful performance of Mahler's Resurrection Symphony in New York's Avery Fisher Hall; as well as a large number of acclaimed recordings. In 2001, Levi, now the Atlanta Orchestra's music director emeritus, became artistic adviser for the Flemish Radio Orchestra (Vlaams Radio Orkest) in Belgium and principal guest conductor of the Israel Philharmonic. His other conducting engagements have included appearances with major orchestras throughout the world. And in 1991 he was invited to conduct the Stockholm Philharmonic at the Nobel Prize ceremony. Levi made his opera conducting debut in 1997 at the Teatro Comunale in Florence with Puccini's La fanciufla del West and his North American opera debut with the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2000 with Bizet's Carmen. In June 2001 he was named Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.