Joshua David Bell (born December 9, 1967) is an American Grammy Award-winning violinist.
Bell was born in Bloomington, Indiana, United States, the son of a psychologist and a therapist. His mother is Jewish and his father a Christian. Bell's father is the late Alan P. Bell, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Indiana University, in Bloomington, a former Kinsey researcher.
Bell began taking violin lessons at the age of four after his mother discovered 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.
Bell studied as a boy first under Mimi Zweig, then switched to the renowned 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 12 Bell was serious about the instrument, thanks in large part to Gingold's inspiration.
At the age of fourteen, 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, while managing to graduate from Bloomington High School North in 1984, two years ahead of schedule. 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.
Joshua Bell made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1985 with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. He has since performed with almost all 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 him, the recording of which won Bell a Grammy and gave the world premiere of the work in 1993. 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 also 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. Bell had held and played the violin, and its owner at the time jokingly told Bell 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 the Joshua Bell website (http://joshuabell.com
), Bell "was practically in tears." Bell then reportedly sold his current Stradivarius, the Tom Taylor, 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. His first recording made with the Gibson ex Huberman was Romance of the Violin (under Sony Classical) in 2003. It sold more than 5,000,000 copies and remained at the top of classical music charts for 54 weeks. Joshua Bell's most recent CD is called Vivaldi: The Four Seasons and was released near the end of summer in 2008. It features The Four Seasons, four concerti written by the baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi.
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. Bell's long time manager Edna Landau, of IMG Artists, retired this fall. She had been working with Bell since his teenage years and was the manager of Itzhak Perlman, Petr Matejak, Hilary Hahn, Lang Lang, and Murray Perahia.
In a curious experiment initiated by Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten, Bell donned a baseball cap and played as an incognito street busker at the Metro subway station L'Enfant Plaza in Washington, D.C. on January 12, 2007. The experiment was videotaped on hidden camera; among 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). Weingarten won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for his article on the experiment.
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. On May 3, 2007, the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music announced that Bell had joined the faculty as a senior lecturer.
Bell collaborated with film composer Hans Zimmer by providing violin solos for the soundtrack for the 2009 film, Angels and Demons, based on Dan Brown's 2000 novel of the same name.
Bell resides in Gramercy Park, Manhattan. For seven years up until 1999, Bell dated Lisa Matricardi. Once they were no longer together, they remained close friends. Years after they were no longer a couple, Bell and Lisa were interested in having a child. They decided to try to have a child, but continue to live separate lives (though visiting each other often). Josef Matricardi Bell was born on July 31st, 2007. The child (now of two years) lives with his mother, and is visited by his father often. Bell enjoys sports such as golf and tennis. He has dated actress and Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth.