Often referred to as the "poet of the violin," Joshua Bell is one of the world's most celebrated violinists. He continues to enchant audiences with his breathtaking virtuosity, tone of sheer beauty, and charismatic stage presence. His restless curiosity, passion, universal appeal, and multi-faceted musical interests have earned him the rare title of "classical music superstar." Bell's most recent challenge is his appointment as the new Music Director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, the first person and first American to hold this post since Sir Neville Marriner formed the orchestra in 1958. The ensemble's first 15-concert tour to the U.S. garnered rave reviews, and as one orchestra member blogged in Gramophone "the audience reaction all tour has been nothing short of rock concert enthusiasm." Their first recording under Bell's leadership as Music Director/conductor will be the 4th and 7th symphonies of Beethoven to be released by Sony Classical February 12, 2013 with plans to eventually perform and record all the Beethoven symphonies.
Equally at home as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist and orchestra leader, Bell's 2012 summer appearances included the premiere of a new concerto for violin and double bass by Edgar Meyer performed by Bell and Meyer at Tanglewood, Aspen and the Hollywood Bowl. In addition Bell appeared at the Festival del Sole, Ravinia, Verbier, Salzburg, Saratoga and Mostly Mozart festivals. He kicked off the San Francisco Symphony's fall season followed by performances with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Boston, Seattle, Omaha, Cincinnati and Detroit Symphonies. Fall highlights included a tour of South Africa, a European tour with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and a European recital tour with Sam Haywood.
In 2013 Bell will tour the US with the Cleveland Orchestra and Europe with the New York Philharmonic as well as perform with the Tucson, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Nashville Symphony Orchestras.
Joshua Bell currently records exclusively for Sony Classical and since his first LP recording at age 18 on the Decca Label, he has recorded more than 40 CDs. Sony releases include French Impressions with pianist Jeremy Denk, featuring sonatas by Saint-Saens, 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. Bell also collaborated with Wynton Marsalis on the Grammy-winning spoken word children's album Listen to the Storyteller and Bela Flecks' Grammy Award 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.
Always seeking opportunities to increase the violin repertoire, Bell has premiered new works by composers Nicholas Maw, John Corigliano, Aaron Jay Kernis, Edgar Meyer, Behzad Ranjbaran and Jay Greenberg. Mr. Bell also performs and has recorded his own cadenzas to many of the major violin concertos.
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 and Entertainment Tonight. In 2010 Bell starred in his fifth Live From Lincoln Center Presents broadcast titled: Joshua Bell with Friends @ The Penthouse. Other PBS shows include Great Performances – Joshua Bell: West Side Story Suite from Central Park, Memorial Day Concert performed on the lawn of the United States 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 air on VH1 and he has been the subject of a BBC Omnibus documentary. Bell has appeared in publications ranging from Strad and Gramophone to, The New York Times, People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People issue, USA Today, The Wall St. Journal, GQ, Vogue and Readers Digest among many. 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 which continues to this day.
Growing up with his two sisters in Bloomington, Indiana, Bell indulged in many passions outside of music, becoming an avid computer game player and a competitive athlete. 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 the handles of his dresser drawers. By 12 he was serious about the instrument, thanks in large part to the inspiration of renowned violinist and pedagogue Josef Gingold, who had become his beloved teacher and mentor. Two years later, Bell came to national attention in his highly acclaimed debut with Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra. His Carnegie Hall debut, an Avery Fisher Career Grant and a notable recording contract soon followed, further confirming his presence in the musical world.
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.
In 2011 Bell 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 that same year received the Humanitarian Award from Seton Hall University. In 2009 he was honored by Education Through Music and he received the Academy of Achievement Award in 2008 for exceptional accomplishment in the arts. In 2007 he was awarded the Avery Fisher Prize and recognized as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. He was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame in 2005.
Today Bell serves on the artist committee of the Kennedy Center Honors and is on the Board of Directors of the New York Philharmonic. He has performed before President Obama at Ford’s Theatre and at the White House and recently returned to the Capital to perform for Vice President Biden and President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping.
Bell performs on the 1713 Huberman Stradivarius violin and uses a late 18th century French bow by Francois Tourte.