Joshua Bell

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Joshua Bell
Joshua Bell.JPG
Bell after a performance with the San Francisco Symphony, California, October 24, 2010
Born(1967-12-09) December 9, 1967 (age 46)
Bloomington, Indiana
Years active1980s–present
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For other people named Joshua Bell, see Joshua Bell (disambiguation).
Joshua Bell
Joshua Bell.JPG
Bell after a performance with the San Francisco Symphony, California, October 24, 2010
Born(1967-12-09) December 9, 1967 (age 46)
Bloomington, Indiana
Years active1980s–present

Joshua David Bell (born December 9, 1967) is an American Grammy Award-winning violinist and conductor.


Bell was born in Bloomington, Indiana, United States. His mother, Shirley, was a therapist. His father, Alan P. Bell, was a psychologist, Professor Emeritus of Indiana University, in Bloomington, and a former Kinsey researcher.[1][2] His father is of Scottish descent, and his mother is Jewish (his maternal grandfather was born in Israel and his maternal grandmother was from Minsk). Bell told The Jewish Journal, "I identify myself as being Jewish".[1][3][4]

Bell began taking violin lessons at the age of four after his mother discovered that her son had taken rubber bands from around the house and stretched them across the handles of his dresser drawer to pluck out music he had heard her play on the piano. His parents got a scaled-to-size violin for their then five-year-old son and started giving him lessons. A bright student, Bell took to the instrument but lived an otherwise normal midwest Indiana life playing video games and excelling at sports, namely tennis and bowling, even placing in a national tennis tournament at the age of ten.[5]

Bell studied as a boy first under Donna Bricht, widow of Indiana University music faculty member Walter Bricht.[6] His second teacher was Mimi Zweig, and then he switched to the violinist and pedagogue Josef Gingold after Bell's parents assured Gingold that they were not interested in pushing their son in the study of the violin but simply wanted him to have the best teacher for his abilities. Satisfied that the boy was living a normal life, Gingold took Bell on as his student. By age 12, Bell was serious about the instrument, thanks in large part to Gingold's inspiration.

At the age of 14, Bell appeared as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Riccardo Muti. He studied the violin at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and graduated from Bloomington High School North in 1984,[7] In 1989, Bell received an Artist Diploma in Violin Performance from Indiana University. His alma mater also honored him with a Distinguished Alumni Service Award only two years after his graduation. He has been named an "Indiana Living Legend" and received the Indiana Governor's Arts Award.


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Bell, Sharon Isbin perform Niccolò Paganini's Cantabile at the White House Evening of Classical Music on November 4, 2009.

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Bell made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1985, at age 17, with the St. Louis Symphony. He has since performed with many of the world's major orchestras and conductors. As well as the standard concerto repertoire, Bell has performed new works. Nicholas Maw's violin concerto is dedicated to Bell, who premiered it in 1993 and won a Grammy Award for his recording of the piece. He performed the solo part on John Corigliano's Oscar-winning soundtrack for the film The Red Violin and was also featured in Ladies in Lavender. Bell made an appearance in the movie Music of the Heart, a story about the power of music, with other notable violinists.

Bell's instrument is a 300-year-old Stradivarius violin called the Gibson ex Huberman, which was made in 1713 during what is known as Antonio Stradivari's "Golden Era." This violin had been stolen twice from the previous owner, Bronisław Huberman; the last time the thief confessed to the act on his deathbed.[8] Bell had held and played the violin, and its owner at the time jokingly told Bell that the violin could be his for four million dollars. Shortly thereafter, by chance, Bell came across the violin again and discovered it was about to be sold to a German industrialist to become part of a collection. According to Bell's website, Bell "was practically in tears."[9][full citation needed] Bell then sold his previous violin, the Tom Taylor Stradivarius,[10] for a little more than two million dollars and made the purchase of the Gibson ex Huberman for a little under the four million dollar asking price. As with his previous Stradivarius violin, Bell entrusts the upkeep of the Gibson ex Huberman to expert luthier Emmanuel Gradoux-Matt.[citation needed] The story of the theft, return, and subsequent acquisition by Bell is told in the 2013 documentary The Return of the Violin, directed by Haim Hecht. Bell's first recording made with the Gibson ex Huberman was Romance of the Violin (for Sony Classical Records) in 2003.

Bell is an artistic partner for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (starting in the 2004–2005 season) and a visiting professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He also serves on the artists selection committee for the Kennedy Center Honors and is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[11]

Bell was awarded the Avery Fisher Prize on April 10, 2007, at Lincoln Center in New York City. The prize is given once every few years to classical instrumentalists for outstanding achievement.[12] On May 3, 2007, the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music announced that Bell had joined the faculty as a senior lecturer.[13][14]

Bell collaborated with film composer Hans Zimmer by providing violin solos for the soundtrack of the 2009 film Angels & Demons, based on Dan Brown's 2000 novel of the same name.

On May 26, 2011, Bell was named Music Director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields.[15][16]

In 2013, Bell performed the song "Before My Time", alongside Scarlett Johansson. Written by J. Ralph for the documentary Chasing Ice, the song received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Original Song.[17]

Washington Post experiment[edit]

In an experiment initiated by The Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten, Bell donned a baseball cap and played as an incognito busker at the Metro subway station L'Enfant Plaza in Washington, D.C. on January 12, 2007. The experiment was videotaped on hidden camera; of the 1,097 people who passed by, only seven stopped to listen to him, and only one recognized him. For his nearly 45-minute performance, Bell collected $32.17 from 27 passersby (excluding $20 from the passerby who recognized him).[8] Three days before, he earned considerably more playing the same repertoire at a concert. Weingarten won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for his article on the experiment.[18][19] The Washington Post posted the video on YouTube [20] and a feature-length documentary, Find Your Way: A Busker's Documentary, chronicled Bell's experience.[21]

Personal life[edit]

Bell resides in Gramercy Park, Manhattan, New York. He has three sisters.[22] A son, Josef, was born to Bell and Lisa Matricardi, an ex-girlfriend, in 2007.[23][24] He has two other children, who are twins.[25]

Selected discography[edit]

YearAlbumBillboard ClassicalBillboard 200
1988Bruch Mendelssohn Violin Concertos, London Records
1989Fauré Debussy Franck Violin Sonatas with Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Decca Records
1990Presenting Joshua Bell, Polygram Records
1991Chausson Concerto, Ravel Piano Trio, London Records
1992Saint-Saëns: Violin Concerto No. 3 / Chausson: Poeme, London Records
1995Prokofiev: Violin Concertos & Sonatas, London Records
1995Brahms / Schumann Violin Concertos, London Records
1996The Kreisler Album, London Records
1997Barber / Walton/ Bloch Violin Concertos, Decca Records
1997Shostakovich Piano Trio No. 2, London Records
1999Maw Violin Concertos, Sony Classical
1999Gershwin Fantasy, Sony Classical
2000Sibelius & Goldmark: Violin Concertos, Sony Classical
2000Short Trip Home, with Edgar Meyer, Sam Bush, Mike Marshall, Sony Classical7
2001Bernstein West Side Story Suite, Sony Classical3
2002Beethoven & Mendelssohn: Violin Concertos, Sony Classical18
2004Romance of the Violin, Sony Classical1176
2005Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto, Op. 35; Melodie; Danse Russe from Swan Lake (Act III), Sony Classical2
2006Voice of the Violin, Sony1
2007Corigliano The Red Violin, Sony1
2007The Essential Joshua Bell, Sony BMG Masterworks19
2008Vivaldi: The Four Seasons, Sony BMG Masterworks1134
2009Bruch, Mendelssohn, Mozart Violin Concertos (reissues), Decca9
2009The Best of Joshua Bell, Sony Masterworks12
2009At Home with Friends, Sony Masterworks
with Chris Botti, Kristin Chenoweth, Regina Spektor, and Sting
2012French Impressions, Sony Masterworks1139
2013Beethoven: Symphonies Nos.4 &7, Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Sony Masterworks1

Soundtrack Albums[edit]


  1. ^ a b Robinson, George (October 12, 2006). "Violinist Joshua Bell walks in the footsteps of masters". Retrieved October 13, 2006. 
  2. ^ Joshua Bell to return home for benefit performance. Indiana University Media Relations. Retrieved January 28, 2007.
  3. ^ "Bell Man" by Mandy katz, Moment (August/September 2007)
  4. ^ "Bell Brings Artistry, Ancestry to Performances" by Tom Teicholz, Jewish Journal (June 29, 2010)
  5. ^ The Univee, yearbook, 1978–9
  6. ^ "Music: The Teacher, The Lesson". Bloomington Herald-Times, January 15, 1989.
  7. ^ BHSN Yearbook, 1984.
  8. ^ a b Gene Weingarten, "Pearls Before Breakfast" The Washington Post, April 8, 2007 Page W10. Archived 9 June 2010 at WebCite
  9. ^ Joshua Bell website
  10. ^ "Antonio Stradivari, Cremona, c. 1732, the 'Tom Taylor'", accessed 2 October 2013
  11. ^ E-strings for the future musician. BBC News, July 18, 2002. Retrieved January 28, 2007.
  12. ^ Violinist Bell wins $75,000 Fisher Prize. CNN News, April 8, 2007. Retrieved April 8, 2007.
  13. ^ Joshua Bell to join IU Jacobs School of Music faculty
  14. ^ "Joshua Bell – Senior Lecturer in Music (Violin; Chamber Music)"
  15. ^ "Joshua Bell is the new music director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields", Gramophone, May 27, 2011. Retrieved May 29, 2011.
  16. ^ "Joshua Bell Named Music Director of Academy of St. Martin in the Fields" by Rory Williams, Strings Magazine (May 27, 2011
  17. ^ Carlson, Erin (20 February 2013). "Oscars 2013: Best Song Contender J. Ralph on Scarlett Johansson's 'World-Class' Singing Voice". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 12 July 2013. 
  18. ^ Howard Kurtz (April 8, 2008). "The Post Wins 6 Pulitzer Prizes". The Washington Post. p. A01. Retrieved February 24, 2009. 
  19. ^ Barbara and David P. Mikkelson. "Bell Curved" Snopes; January 6, 2009
  20. ^ Video: "Stop and Hear the Music". The Washington Post. April 10, 2007. Retrieved February 17, 2012. 
  21. ^ Find Your Way: A Busker's Documentary at the Internet Movie Database
  22. ^ "Alan P. Bell, 70, Researcher Of Influences on Homosexuality", obituary by Carmel McCoubrey, The New York Times, May 24, 2002
  23. ^ "Joshua Bell: The lad with the strad grows up" by Peter Culshaw, The Daily Telegraph, 19 February 2009
  24. ^ "A touring Joshua Bell sustained by thoughts of home" by Greg Stepanich, The Miami Herald, January 20, 2011
  25. ^ "Joshua Bell Tells All" by Charles Donelan, Santa Barbara Independent, February 14, 2013

External links[edit]