Joshua Bell, Biography
Joshua Bell (America, December 9, 1967) is a violinist and conductor. At the age of 14, Bell appeared as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Riccardo Muti. Bell made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1985, at age 17, with the St. Louis Symphony. Since then, he has performed with many of the world's major orchestras and conductors.
Childhood and Youth
Bell was born in Bloomington, Indiana, United States. His mother, Shirley, was a therapist of Jewish descent with Joshua’s grandparents born in Israel and Minsk. Joshua’s father, Alan, was a psychologist of Scottish descent. Bell has three sisters. He identifies himself as being Jewish.
At the age of 4, his mother discovered that her son had taken rubber bands from around the house and stretched them across the handles of his nine dresser drawers to pluck out music he had heard her play on the piano. His parents started giving him lessons. A bright student, Bell played violin but lived an otherwise normal life playing video games and excelling at sports, namely tennis and bowling, even placing in a national tennis tournament at the age of ten.
Around that time, Bell started to have lessons with the violinist and pedagogue Josef Gingold. Gingold only took Bell as a student after Bell's parents assured him 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. By age 12, Bell was serious about the instrument, thanks in large part to Gingold's inspiration.
In 1982, aged 14, Bell already appeared as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Riccardo Muti. Three years later, at age 17, he played with the St. Louis Symphony. Since then, he has performed with many of the world's major orchestras and conductors.
In 1993, at age 25, Bell won a Grammy Award for his recording of the violin concerto of the modernist composer Nicholas Maw's which he had dedicated to Bell. Bell also performed the solo part on John Corigliano's Oscar-winning soundtrack for the film The Red Violin.
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
Bell and his girlfriend Lisa Matricardi have a son who was born 2007 and twins, born 2010. Bell resides in Gramercy Park, Manhattan, New York.
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, Bell discovered it was about to be sold to a German industrialist to become part of a collection. Bell decided to sell 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. 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.
The Washington Post Experiment
In January 2007, Bell participated in an experiment initiated by The Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten. Bell wore a baseball cap and played as an incognito busker at the Metro subway station L'Enfant Plaza in Washington, D.C. The experiment was videotaped on hidden camera. Out 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. Gene 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.
The story of Joshua Bell playing in a Metro station is also the basis of the gorgeous children picture book, "The Man with the Violin" by Kathy Stinson.
For Bell's concert schedule, please visit:
Photo: "Joshua Bell" by Alexduff - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons