Arbie Orenstein was born in New York City and attended the High School of Music and Art, Queens College, and Columbia University Graduate School, where he received a Ph.D. in Musicology. He is the author of Ravel: Man and Musician (Columbia University Press, 1975, reissued as a Dover paperback in 1991) and Ravel: Lettres, Ecrits, Entretiens (Flammarion, 1989), which was translated into English as A Ravel Reader (Columbia University Press, 1990, reissued by Dover in 2003). His books have been translated into German, Italian, and Japanese. As a pianist, he has accompanied many outstanding cantors and concert artists and has recorded the world premieres of several works by Ravel, which he discovered while studying in Paris, France, on a U.S. government Fulbright grant.
Dr. Orenstein is professor of music at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, where he has taught for the past 45 years. His courses focus on European music history and Jewish music. He is the editor of Musica Judaica (a scholarly journal devoted to all aspects of Jewish music) and a regular contributor to the French journal Cahiers Maurice Ravel.
In 1998 Dr. Orenstein was knighted by the French government, receiving the medal of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters.