Ilkka Talvi is a self-taught violinist, later on he has studied with several teachers, for example Arno Granroth, Gabriel Bouillon, Ricardo Odnoposoff, Ivan Galamian and Jascha Heifetz.
He has held a position of a concertmaster in the Malmö Symphony Orchestra (Sweden), Seattle Symphony Orchestra and Seattle Opera. He worked for SSO for 20 years (1984-2004), before SSO decided to terminate his contract prematurely. Controversy regarding the termination of his contract became widely reported, mostly due to his blog. Before moving to Seattle he played second violin in The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.
Talvi currently works as concertmaster for Rainier Symphony, and is affiliated with the Seattle Pacific University as violin instructor. He has also been a lecturer at Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland and Conservatory of Music in Pori, Finland.
He is married to a fellow violinist Marjorie Talvi.