With a career spanning more than thirty years as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist, conductor and director, Joshua Bell is one of the most celebrated violinists of his era. His curiosity and clarity of insight are a testament to his belief in the power of music as a unifying cultural force. An artist of precision and passion, Bell is committed to the violin as an instrument of expression and a vehicle for realizing the new and unexplored.
Having performed with every major orchestra in the world on six continents, Bell continues to maintain engagements as soloist, recitalist and chamber musician. Since 2011, Bell has served as Music Director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, succeeding Sir Neville Marriner, who formed the orchestra in 1958. Bell’s multifaceted interests range from performing the repertoire’s hallmarks to recording commissioned works, including Nicholas Maw’s Violin Concerto, for which Bell received a Grammy® award. He has also premiered works of John Corigliano, Edgar Meyer, Jay Greenberg, and Behzad Ranjbaran, continually exploring the boundaries of the repertoire and the instrument.
Committed to innovative ways of expanding classical music’s social and cultural impact, Bell has collaborated with various artists and organizations across a multitude of genres. He has partnered with peers including Renée Fleming, Chick Corea, Regina Spektor, Wynton Marsalis, Chris Botti, Anoushka Shankar, Frankie Moreno, Josh Groban, and Sting, among others, emphasizing music as a crucial element of cross-cultural conversation. In Spring 2019, Bell joins his longtime friends and musical partners, cellist Steven Isserlis and pianist Jeremy Denk, for a ten-city American trio tour.
Bell maintains an avid interest in film music, and in 2018-19, commemorates the 20th anniversary of The Red Violin (1998). The film’s Academy-Award winning soundtrack features Bell as soloist; in summer 2018, Bell brings the film with live orchestra to various festivals, and, in October 2018, to the New York Philharmonic. Bell is the featured soloist in a wide array of film soundtracks, from that of Ladies in Lavender (2004) to Defiance (2008), further diversifying the possibilities of the violin. He has also appeared as a guest star on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and has made regular appearances on Mozart in the Jungle. Bell is featured on six Live From Lincoln Center specials, as well as a PBS Great Performances episode, “Joshua Bell: West Side Story in Central Park.”
Through music’s interaction with technology, Bell further seeks to expand the boundaries of his instrument. Bell has partnered with Embertone, the leading virtual instrument sampling company, on the Joshua Bell Virtual Violin, a sampler created for producers, engineers, artists, and composers. In an effort to broaden the violin’s accessibility, Bell also collaborated with Sony on the Joshua Bell VR experience. Featuring Bell performing with pianist Sam Haywood in full 360-degrees VR, the software is available on Sony PlayStation 4 VR.
As an exclusive Sony Classical artist, Bell has recorded more than 40 albums garnering Grammy®, Mercury®, Gramophone and ECHO Klassik awards. Sony Classical’s most recent release in June 2018, with Bell and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, features Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy and G minor Violin Concerto. Bell’s previous release, For the Love of Brahms in 2016, includes 19th-century repertoire with the Academy, Steven Isserlis, and Jeremy Denk. Bell’s 2013 release with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, featured him conducting Beethoven’s Fourth and Seventh symphonies and debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts.
In 2007, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post story, centered on Bell performing incognito in a Washington, D.C. metro station, sparked an ongoing conversation regarding artistic reception and context. The feature inspired Kathy Stinson’s 2013 children’s book, The Man With The Violin, and a newly-commissioned animated film, with music by Academy Award-winning composer Anne Dudley. Stinson’s subsequent 2017 book, Dance With The Violin, illustrated by Dušan Petričić, offers a glimpse into one of Bell’s competition experiences at age 12. Bell debuted The Man With The Violin festival at the Kennedy Center in 2017, and, in March 2019, presents a Man With The Violin festival and family concert with the Seattle Symphony.
Bell advocates for music as an essential educational tool, as both a way for classical music to find diverse audiences, and also to deepen his audience’s connection to the art. He maintains active involvement with Education Through Music and Turnaround Arts, which provide instruments and arts education to children who may not otherwise be able to experience classical music firsthand. In 2014, Bell mentored and performed alongside National YoungArts Foundation string musicians in an HBO Family Documentary special, “Joshua Bell: A YoungArts Masterclass.” Bell continues to work alongside young talent to foster the next generation of classical music ambassadors, and currently serves as senior lecturer at his alma mater, the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.
Born in Bloomington, Indiana, Bell began the violin at the age of four, and at age twelve, began studies with his mentor, Josef Gingold. At age 14, Bell debuted with Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and made his Carnegie Hall debut at age 17 with the St. Louis Symphony. At age 18, Bell signed with his first label, London Decca, and received the Avery Fisher Career Grant. In the years following, Bell has been named 2010 “Instrumentalist of the Year” by Musical America, a 2007 “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum, nominated for five Grammy® awards, and received the 2007 Avery Fisher Prize. He has also received the 2003 Indiana Governor’s Arts Award and a Distinguished Alumni Service Award in 1991 from the Jacobs School of Music. In 2000, he was named an “Indiana Living Legend” and one of People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful.”
Bell has performed for three American presidents, most recently former president Barack Obama, participating in Obama’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities’ first cultural mission to Cuba. He joined Cuban and American musicians on a 2017 Live from Lincoln Center PBS special, Joshua Bell: Seasons of Cuba, to celebrate a new landscape of cultural diplomacy.
Bell performs on the 1713 Huberman Stradivarius violin, with a François Tourte 18th-Century bow.