Hoffman studied at the Juilliard School and was a protégé of Serge Koussevitsky, and he made his conducting debut at the age of seventeen with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Robin Hood Dell (now the Mann Center for the Performing Arts). He was music director of the Vancouver Symphony from 1952 to 1964, and served the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as assistant conductor (1964–65), associate conductor (1965–68), acting music director (1968–69), and conductor (1969–70).
Hoffman became the first music director of the Florida Orchestra (then the Florida Gulf Coast Symphony) in 1968. He was music director of the Bogotá Philharmonic, Colombia for one year, the Chile Symphony Orchestra for three seasons (from 1995 to 1997) and Costa Rica's National Symphony Orchestra from 1987 to 2001.
Hoffman died in Costa Rica on March 19, 2018, aged 93.
- Meacham, Andrew (March 22, 2018). "Demanding, respected Irwin Hoffman, first conductor of Florida Orchestra, dies at 93". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved March 28, 2018.
- Bogotá Philharmonic Orchestra
- Chicago Symphony Orchestra
- Ninetieth birthday tribute on From the Archives
| Music Director, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
| Music Director, Florida Orchestra
| Music Director, Bogotá Philharmonic
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