Paul Phillips joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1980 at the invitation of Sir Georg Solti, bringing a wealth of experience acquired in Indianapolis and Detroit. He played in the Indianapolis Symphony for four years under Chicagoan Izler Solomon, and was a member of the Indianapolis String Quartet, which gave a twenty-concert series in the area. Paul's next advancement came when Sixten Ehrling hired him for the Detroit Symphony's first violin section, where he remained for eight years through music directors Ehrling, Aldo Ceccato and Antal Dorati.
Paul was born in Canton, Ohio, and started violin lessons at the age of four. His father had played the violin as a youth and, when cleaning out a closet one day, he showed Paul his old violin and asked him if he wanted to learn to play it. Paul innocently answered "Yes!"—and so he did. His first teacher was William Taylor, father of current CSO assistant concertmaster David Taylor and he attended the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied violin and chamber music with William Kroll of the Kroll Quartet and Endre Granat, assistant concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra. He later had advanced coaching from Donald Weilerstein, former first violinist of the Cleveland Quartet. This early exposure to and training in chamber music has made him much in demand in Chicago. He frequently performs on the Music in the Home series and he has given an extended series of concerts with former CSO Principal Flute Donald Peck and pianist Melody Lord. He is a former member of Music of the Baroque.
To earn his way through the conservatory, Paul worked at a "fancy French restaurant," where he learned to make caesar salad and crêpes suzette. This experience gave him an interest in and mania for good food, both preparing it for his delighted guests and appreciating it in restaurants around the world.