Mikhail Kopelman was born in 1947 in the city of Uzhgorod (former USSR), and began his violin studies at the age of six. He studied with Maya Glezarova and Yuri Yankelevich at the Moscow Conservatory. In 1973 he won second prize in the Jacques Thibaud International Competition in Paris.
A former member of the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra and concertmaster of the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, Kopelman was appointed first violin of the Borodin String Quartet in 1976, and played with the ensemble for two decades.
From 1980-1993 Kopelman was on the faculty of the Moscow Conservatory teaching both solo violin and string quartet. He has given master classes at the Guildhall School of Music in London, the Britten-Pears School in Aldeburgh, UK, in Tours (France), Rome, Florence, Turku (Finland), Stockholm, the Hochschule in Hamburg, and the Hochschule in Vienna.
Kopelman emigrated with his family to the United States in 1993. In 1995, he received the Royal Philharmonic Society Award and the Concertgebouw Silver Medal of Honour. He joined the Tokyo String Quartet as first violinist in 1996 and from 1996-2002 he was a professor at the Yale School of Music, coaching chamber music.
In 2002, with the purpose of continuing the rich traditions of the Russian school of quartet playing, he founded the Kopelman Quartet together with some of his contemporaries from the Moscow Conservatoire. He was in the same year appointed Professor of Violin at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, USA, a position he continues to hold.
Kopelman has performed in many international festivals including Edinburgh, Hong Kong, Schleswig-Holstein, Florence, Salzburg, Tours, Moscow, Zurich, Prague Spring, Ravinia Festival, Santa Fe, Caramoor, Norfolk, and the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York City.
For over 15 years he was closely associated with Sviatoslav Richter in numerous performances and recordings, both in the USSR and abroad. His long and distinguished career as a chamber musician has also brought him together with artists including Mstislav Rostropovich, Gidon Kremer, Natalia Gutman, Elisabeth Leonskaja, Alicia de Larrocha, Christoph Eschenbach, Yuri Bashmet, Victor Tretyakov, Elisso Virsaladze, Peter Donohoe, Boris Berman, and Emanuel Ax.
Mikhail Kopelman has made many recordings for the Melodia, EMI, Virgin Classics, Teldec, Philips, Nimbus and Wigmore Live labels.