December 9, 1967 - Bloomington (United States)
© Bill Phelps
With a career spanning more than 30 years as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist and conductor, Joshua Bell is one of the most celebrated violinists of his era. An exclusive Sony Classical artist, Bell has recorded more than 40 CDs garnering Grammy, Mercury, Gramophone and Echo Klassik awards and is recipient of the Avery Fisher Prize. Named the Music Director of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields in 2011, he is the only person to hold this post since Sir Neville Marriner formed the orchestra in 1958.
Bell’s 2016/17 season includes season-opening appearances with the Atlanta Symphony and Minnesota Orchestra and performances with the New York Philharmonic under Alan Gilbert, Los Angeles Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel, plus the symphony orchestras of San Francisco, Seattle, Montreal and the National Arts Centre Orchestra. Abroad he performs with the Vienna Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Frankfurt Radio Symphony and Czech Philharmonic. He embarks on four international orchestral tours: To the U.K., Benelux, Germany and Australia with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields; to Switzerland with the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra; to Austria, Germany, Italy and Sweden with the Swedish Radio Symphony under Daniel Harding; and to Korea and Japan with the Orchestra de Paris also with Harding. He makes recital appearances throughout North America with his recital partners Alessio Bax including at Lincoln Center and with Sam Haywood in a Westcoast tour.
A highlight of the season features Bell in a week-long residency in Washington, D.C., where he will serve as 2016-2017 Artist-in-Residence at the Kennedy Center and National Symphony Orchestra. Performing and collaborating across artistic and educational mediums, Bell will explore the depths of artistic possibilities examining synergies between music, dance, the culinary arts, literature, education, and technology. Featured events will include an evening with Gourmet Symphony, a collaboration with Brooklyn’s Dance Heginbotham, a recital with literature celebrating John F. Kennedy’s Centennial, and a world premiere co-commission from Anne Dudley in a family concert based on the bestselling children’s book The Man with the Violin, inspired by Bell’s incognito 2007 D.C. Metro performance.
Convinced of the value of music as both a diplomatic and educational tool, Bell is a member of President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and in April 2016, he participated in the U.S. government’s inaugural cultural mission to Cuba. He is involved in Turnaround Arts, a signature program of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities led by Michelle Obama, providing arts education to low-performing elementary and middle schools. Bell has performed for three U.S. Presidents as well as the President of China and devoted himself to several charitable causes, most notably Education Through Music, which helps put instruments in the hands of thousands of children in America’s inner cities.
In September 2016, Sony Classical releases Bell’s newest album, For the Love of Brahms, with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, cellist Steven Isserlis and pianist Jeremy Denk. Bell’s 2014 Sony release was a Bach album recorded with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields that coincided with an HBO YoungArts documentary special, Joshua Bell: A YoungArts MasterClass. His 2013 release with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts, featured him conducting Beethoven’s Fourth and Seventh symphonies.
In 2013, Sony released Bell’s holiday CD, Musical Gifts from Joshua Bell and Friends, featuring collaborations with Chris Botti, Chick Corea, Gloria Estefan, Renée Fleming, Plácido Domingo, Alison Krauss and others. Other releases include French Impressions with pianist Jeremy Denk, featuring sonatas by Saint-Saëns, Ravel and Franck, At Home with Friends, Vivaldi's The Four Seasons with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, The Tchaikovsky Concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic, as well as The Red Violin Concerto, The Essential Joshua Bell, Voice of the Violin, and Romance of the Violin which Billboard named the 2004 Classical CD of the Year, and Bell the Classical Artist of the Year. Bell received critical acclaim for his concerto recordings of Sibelius and Goldmark, Beethoven and Mendelssohn, and the Grammy Award winning Nicholas Maw concerto. His Grammy-nominated Gershwin Fantasy premiered a new work for violin and orchestra based on themes from Porgy and Bess. Its success led to a Grammy-nominated Bernstein recording that included the premiere of the West Side Story Suite as well as the composer's Serenade. Bell appeared on the Grammy-nominated crossover recording Short Trip Home with composer and double bass virtuoso Edgar Meyer, as well as a recording with Meyer of the Bottesini Gran Duo Concertante. He collaborated with Wynton Marsalis on the Grammy-winning spoken word children's album Listen to the Storyteller and Béla Fleck’s Grammy Award winning recording, Perpetual Motion. Highlights of the Sony Classical film soundtracks on which he has performed include The Red Violin which won the Oscar for Best Original Score, the Classical Brit-nominated Ladies in Lavender, and the films, Iris and Defiance.
Seeking opportunities to increase violin repertoire, Bell has premiered new works by John Corigliano, Aaron Jay Kernis, Nicholas Maw, Edgar Meyer, Behzad Ranjbaran and Jay Greenberg. He also performs and has recorded his own cadenzas to most of the major violin concertos.
Perhaps the event that helped most to transform Bell’s reputation from “musician’s musician’ to household name was his incognito performance in a Washington, D.C. subway station in 2007. Ever adventurous, he had agreed to participate in a Washington Post story by Gene Weingarten which thoughtfully examined art and context. The story earned Weingarten a Pulitzer Prize and sparked an international firestorm of discussion. The conversation continues to this day and inspired the 2013 release of the children’s book The Man with the Violin by Kathy Stinson, illustrated by Dušan Petričić from Annick Press.
Bell has collaborated with numerous artists outside the classical arena and performed on television shows including the Grammy Awards, numerous Live from Lincoln Center specials and on movie soundtracks including the Oscar-winning film, The Red Violin. He has been embraced by a wide television audience with appearances ranging from The Tonight Show, Tavis Smiley, Charlie Rose, and CBS Sunday Morning to Sesame Street. In 2012, Bell starred in his sixth Live from Lincoln Center Presents broadcast titled: One Singular Sensation: Celebrating Marvin Hamlisch. Other PBS shows include Joshua Bell with Friends @ The Penthouse, Great Performances – Joshua Bell: West Side Story Suite from Central Park, Memorial Day Concert performed on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, and A&E’s Biography. He has twice performed on the Grammy Awards telecast, performing music from Short Trip Home and West Side Story Suite. He was one of the first classical artists to have a music video on VH1 and he was the subject of a BBC Omnibus documentary. Bell has appeared in publications ranging from The Strad and Gramophone to Time, The New York Times, People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, GQ, Vogue and Reader’s Digest, among many.
Growing up with his two sisters in Bloomington, Indiana, Bell was an avid computer game player. He placed fourth in a national tennis tournament at age 10, and still keeps his racquet close by. At age four, he received his first violin after his parents, both mental health professionals, noticed him plucking tunes with rubber bands he had stretched around his dresser drawer handles. By 12, he was serious about the instrument, thanks in large part to the inspiration Josef Gingold, his beloved teacher and mentor. Two years later, Bell came to national attention in his debut with Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra. His Carnegie Hall debut, an Avery Fisher Career Grant and a notable recording contract further confirmed his presence.
In 1989, Bell received an Artist Diploma in Violin Performance from Indiana University where he currently serves as a senior lecturer at the Jacobs School of Music. His alma mater honored him with a Distinguished Alumni Service Award; he has been named an “Indiana Living Legend” and is the recipient of the Indiana Governor’s Arts Award.
Bell has received many accolades: In 2013 he was honored by the New York Chapter of The Recording Academy; in 2012 by the National YoungArts Foundation, in 2011 he received the Paul Newman Award from Arts Horizons and the Huberman Award from Moment Magazine. Bell was named “Instrumentalist of the Year, 2010” by Musical America and received the Humanitarian Award from Seton Hall University. In 2009 he was honored by Education Through Music and received the Academy of Achievement Award in 2008. He was awarded the Avery Fisher Prize in 2007 and was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame in 2005.
In 2003 Bell was invited to perform at the World Economic Forum for an audience of global leaders and was later recognized by that prestigious organization as a Young Global Leader. He serves on the artist committee of the Kennedy Center Honors, the New York Philharmonic Board of Directors, and Education Through Music.
Bell performs on the 1713 Huberman Stradivarius violin and uses a late 18th century French bow by François Tourte.