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. Having performed with virtually every major orchestra in the world, 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 1959. In 2019-20, Bell commemorates the Academy’s 60th anniversary season at Queen Elisabeth Hall in London. 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, and Behzad Ranjbaran.
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. In Spring 2019, Bell joined his longtime friends and musical partners, cellist Steven Isserlis and pianist Jeremy Denk, for a ten-city American trio tour; the trio recorded Mendelssohn’s piano trios at Capitol Studios in Hollywood, slated for release in early 2020. Following Bell’s second collaboration with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra and Maestro Tsung Yeh in 2018, a fall 2020 album release features Bell as soloist alongside traditional Chinese instruments in Western repertoire and the Butterfly Lovers’ Violin Concerto, one of the most renowned violin works in Chinese cultural heritage.
Bell maintains an avid interest in film music, and in 2018-19, commemorated the 20th anniversary of The Red Violin (1998). The film’s Academy-Award winning soundtrack featured Bell as soloist; in summer 2018, Bell brought the film with live orchestra to various festivals, including the New York Philharmonic. Bell is the featured soloist in a wide array of film soundtracks, from 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 made numerous 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. 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 OPUS KLASSIK awards. Sony Classical’s most recent June 2018 release, with Bell and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, features Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy and G minor Violin Concerto which received a GRAMMY® nomination. Bell’s previous release, For the Love of Brahms (2016), includes 19th-century repertoire with the Academy, Steven Isserlis, and Jeremy Denk. Bell’s 2013 album with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, featuring Bell conducting Beethoven’s Fourth and Seventh symphonies, debuted at No. 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, presented a Man With The Violin festival and family concert with the Seattle Symphony.
Bell advocates for music as an essential educational tool. He maintains active involvement with Education Through Music and Turnaround Arts, which provide instruments and arts education to children who may not otherwise 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.” This year, Bell received the 2019 Glashütte Original MusicFestivalAward, presented in conjunction with the Dresden Music Festival, for his commitment to arts education.
Born in Bloomington, Indiana, Bell began the violin at age 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.”
Bell has performed for three American presidents and the sitting justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. He participated in former president Barack Obama’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities’ first cultural mission to Cuba, joining Cuban and American musicians on a 2017 Live from Lincoln Center PBS special, Joshua Bell: Seasons of Cuba, celebrating renewed cultural diplomacy between Cuba and the United States.
Bell performs on the 1713 Huberman Stradivarius violin, with a François Tourte 18th-Century bow.