The Americn violinist and conductor, Joshua David Bell, was born in Bloomington, Indiana. 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. 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". Bell began taking violin lessons at the age of 4 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 5-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 10. Bell studied as a boy first under Donna Bricht, widow of Indiana University music faculty member Walter Bricht. 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, Joshua Bell came to national attention in debut with 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, 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. In 1989, Bell received an Artist Diploma in Violin Performance from Indiana University.
Joshua Bell made his Carnegie Hall debut as violinist in 1985, at age 17, with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. He has made himself a name as one of the most celebrated violinists of his era. His restless curiosity, passion, and multi-faceted musical interests have earned him the rare title of "classical music superstar." Equally at home as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist and orchestra leader. He has performed with many of the world's major orchestras and conductors.
As well as the standard concerto repertoire, Joshua Bell, seeking opportunities to increase the violin repertoire, has premiered new works by Nicholas Maw, John Corigliano, Aaron Jay Kernis, Edgar Meyer, Behzad Ranjbaran and Jay Greenberg. Bell also performs and has recorded his own cadenzas to most of the major violin concertos. 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.
Joshua Bell is an artistic partner for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (starting in the 2004-2005 season). On May 26, 2011, he was named Music Director of the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields. He is the first person to hold this post since Sir Neville Marriner formed the orchestra in 1958.
Joshua Bell's 2014 summer highlights include performances with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl. Appearances at Aspen, Festival del Sole Napa, Ravinia, Verbier, Salzburg, Mostly Mozart and Tanglewood and two concerts with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in New York's Central and the Bronx's Van Cortland Parks round out the summer. Bell kicks off the new season at the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and National National Symphony Orchestra galas. A USA and European recital tour with pianist Alessio Bax, a week with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and a European tour with the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields are just some of this year’s highlights. The year 2015 commences with European tours with the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, and with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe as well as a USA and Canadian recital tour with pianist Sam Haywood. Spring guest soloist performances with orchestras include The Münchner Philharmoniker and Ochestra Nacional d’Espana and three Czech chamber music concerts at London’s Wigmore Hall with cellist Steven Isserlis and pianist Jeremy Denk.
Joshua Bell is 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. On May 3, 2007, the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music announced that Bell had joined the faculty as a senior lecturer.
Joshua Bell serves on the artist committee of the Kennedy Center Honors and the Board of Directors of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. He has performed three times under the patronage of President and Mrs. Obama and returned to the Capital to perform for Vice President Biden and President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping.
Joshua 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. 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. In an experiment initiated by The Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten, Joshua 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). 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. The Washington Post posted the video on YouTube and a feature-length documentary, Find Your Way: A Busker's Documentary, chronicled Bell's experience. In 2007, Bell performed incognito in a Washington, DC subway station for a Washington Post story by Gene Weingarten examining art and context. The story earned Weingarten a Pulitzer Prize and sparked an international firestorm of discussion. The conversation continues to this day, thanks in part to the September 2013 publication of the illustrated children’s book, The Man the Violin by Kathy Stinson illustrated by Dušan Petričić from Annick Press.
An exclusive Sony Classical artist, Joshua Bell has recorded more than 40 CD's since his first LP recording at age 18 on the Decca Label. In October, 2014 HBO will air the documentary special "Joshua Bell: A YoungArts MasterClass" to coincide with the eagerly anticipated release of his Bach album recorded with The Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields. Bell and Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields’ previous release of the L.v. Beethoven's Symphines Nos, 4 & 7 debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts. Recent releases include 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 Camille Saint-Saëns, Ravel and César Franck, "At Home With Friends", Antonio Vivaldi's The Four Seasons with The Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, The Tchaikovsky Concerto with the Berliner Philharmoniker, 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, L.v. Beethoven and Felix 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 Leonard 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. Bell also 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 Bell 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.
Joshua Bell 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.
Joshua Bell Bell has received many accolades. He has been honored by Indian University with a Distinguished Alumni Service Award (1991), he was named an "Indiana Living Legend" and received the Indiana Governor's Arts Award. He was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame in 2005. He 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. In 2007 he was also recognized as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. He received the Academy of Achievement Award in 2008, and in In 2009 he was honored by Education Through Music. Bell was named “Instrumentalist of the Year, 2010” by Musical America and received the Humanitarian Award from Seton Hall University. In 2011 he received the Paul Newman Award from Arts Horizons and the Huberman Award from Moment Magazine. In 2012 he was honored by the National YoungArts Foundation, and in 2013 by the New York Chapter, The Recording Academy.
Joshua 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. 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." Bell then sold his previous violin, the Tom Taylor Stradivarius, 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. 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 uses a late 18th century French bow by François Tourte.
Joshua Bell resides in Gramercy Park, Manhattan, New York. He has three sisters. A son, Josef, was born to Bell and Lisa Matricardi, his ex-girlfriend, in 2007. A few years later they had twins born in 2010.