Oliveira was born on June 28, 1950, near Waterbury, CT. At the age of 9 he took his first lessons on the violin from his older brother John. His advanced studies were at Hartt College of Music (University of Hartford) and the Manhattan School of Music. His principal teachers at Manhattan included Rafael Bronstein and Ariana Bronne.
With first prizes at the Naumburg International and G.B. Dealey Competitions early in his career, Oliveira seemed poised for a promising career. In 1978 he more than fulfilled that promise when he captured the Gold Medal in violin performance (with Latvian Ilya Grubert) at the Sixth Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow. The victory for Oliveira was reminiscent of Van Cliburn's 20 years earlier. Prestigious concerts and recording opportunities followed quickly, as well as numerous offers to appear on television. For a time Oliveira was nearly the celebrity Cliburn was. But like Cliburn, the young violinist found that the limelight faded rather quickly. Still, since that triumph in Moscow, Oliveira has remained active, achieving consistent success in his appearances with major symphony orchestras, including the American "big five" (New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Boston), as well as notable ensembles from abroad, such as the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the London Philharmonic, Zurich Tonhalle, and Helsinki Philharmonic orchestras. Oliveira has been successful in the recording studio, too, garnering kudos for his 1990 recording of the Barber Violin Concerto on EMI and for his 1997 CD of the Rautavaara Violin Concerto on the Ondine label. His 2006 release on Artek of Prokofiev's Violin Sonatas and Five Melodies was his second recording of the works -- the first, on Vox Allegretto, dated to 1991. This later effort demonstrated his continued command of these challenging works. His 2006 concert schedule included appearances in May with the Utah Symphony Orchestra in the Bruch Scottish Fantasy, and in Kiev in June with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine in the Flagello Violin Concerto. His recording of violin concertos by Ernest Bloch and Benjamin Lees was nominated in 2009 for a Grammy.