Mikhail Kopelman graduated from the Moscow Conservatory where he studied with Maya Glezarova and Yuri Yankelevich. 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.
As a member of the Borodin Quartet, he has been awarded the state prize of the U.S.S.R. and he has been named People’s Artist of the Russian Federation.
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 Tour (France), Rome, Florence, Turku (Finland), Stockholm, the Hochschule in Hamburg, and the Hochschule in Vienna.
Since 1993, Kopelman and his family have lived in the United States. In 1995, he received the Royal Philharmonic Society Award and the Concertgebouw Silver Medal of Honour. He was first violinist for the Tokyo String Quartet from 1996-2002 and formed the Kopelman Quartet in 2002. From 1996-2002, he was also professor at the Yale School of Music, coaching chamber music.
Kopelman has performed in many international festivals such as the Edinburgh Festival (UK), Hong Kong, Schleswig-Holstein, Florence, Salzburg, Tour, Moscow, the 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. He has also collaborated with Mstislav Rostropovich, Gideon Kremer, Natalia Gutman, Elisabeth Leonskaja, Alicia de Larrocha, Christoph Eschenbach, Yuri Bashmet, Victor Tretyakov, Eliso Virsaladze, Peter Donohoe, Boris Berman, and Emanuel Ax.
Kopelman has made numerous recordings for the Melodia, EMI, Virgin Classics, Teldec, Philips, Nimbus, and Wigmore Live labels.
Kopelman has also served as a jury member for several international competitions. These have included the Evian, ARD Munich, and Bejing String Quartet competitions, as well as the Indianapolis and Queen Elisabeth International Violin competitions.
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 Conservatory.
He has been professor of violin at Eastman since 2002.