Violinist Shaham Surprised With Music Prize

Violinist Gil Shaham

Violinist Gil Shaham was surprised to win the 2008 Avery Fisher Prize, worth $75, 000. Boyd Hagen hide caption

itoggle caption Boyd Hagen

Twenty years ago, Gil Shaham got a big career break — the kind that young musicians usually only fantasize about. The master violinist Itzhak Perlman had an ear infection, and Shaham, just 18, was asked to sit in. A stellar career followed.

This week, he got another surprise.

Just as Shaham finished playing a concert at the Lincoln Center on Thursday night, his good friend — conductor Gustavo Dudamel — rose from the audience and called out "Stop!"

Dudamel came on stage to announce that Shaham had won the Avery Fisher Prize — one of the most prestigious in the music world and worth $75,000.

The award has gone to such luminaries as Emmanuel Ax, Yo-Yo Ma, Richard Stoltzman and Joshua Bell. Shaham says his head was spinning when he heard the news, and he was a bit embarrassed — since the whole thing was broadcast live on PBS.