Israeli hip-hop violinist blazes her own trail &mdash and makes it big

She played at the Super Bowl in Detroit in early February, she was the featured performer at a Hillary Clinton campaign event in New York, she’s the poster child for Reebok’s “I Am What I Am” campaign, and she’s got her own television show in the works.

After several years playing violin behind hip-hop and pop stars like Kanye West, Jay-Z, Britney Spears and Mariah Carey, Grammy award winner Miri Ben-Ari — a nice Jewish girl from Israel turned gangsta violinist from New York — is stepping into the limelight.

“I want to bring music back,” says Ben-Ari, 27. “In an era where everything is music samples, I’m representing a movement that’s turning to live music again.”

With performances integrating classical and R&B, jazz and gangsta rap, klezmer and dancehall, Ben-Ari has managed to bring high-brow musicianship to the street level, inspiring scores of American youth to bang out today’s chart-topping tunes on the once-nerdy violin.

The daughter of professional musicians, Ben-Ari grew up as a classically trained violinist in Israel. Yet she never felt particularly moved by the classical music she was playing.

“I knew I wasn’t going to be a classical violinist — I wasn’t feeling the orchestra thing,” she recalls.

After serving in the Israeli army, Ben-Ari decided to move to New York, where she had been granted a scholarship at Mannes College of Music. Hustling gigs to pay the rent, she found herself unable to attend classes and she was kicked out of school within a year. Still, she kept playing.

“If I walked into a club and there was a stage, I’d pull out my violin and play. If there was no stage, I’d still play,” she recalls.

Her persistence paid off: After working the scene and getting to know musicians, Ben-Ari was invited to perform at a radio party in New York with leading industry professionals. When she arrived, she was asked to play — with no jazz band in sight.

Noticing a DJ on the stage, she decided to try something new.

“There I am with a violin and he’s playing the best of hip-hop, and I’m playing along,” she recalls.

After her gutsy act that night, Ben-Ari was invited to perform at Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theater and on 106 & Park, a hip-hop show on Black Entertainment Television.

Hip-hop mogul Jay-Z saw one of her performances and asked Ben-Ari to be a featured artist at the hip-hop Summer Jam event — where she received a standing ovation from 20,000 audience members.

Ben-Ari says her status as a role model egives her a heightened sense of responsibility for what she says.

“Especially in hip-hop, many artists talk about things that are either irrelevant or destructive,” she says. “Kids don’t need to hear that.”