Joshua David Bell (born December 9, 1967) is an American violinist and conductor. He plays the Gibson Stradivarius.

Joshua Bell
Joshua Bell.JPG
Bell after a performance with the San Francisco Symphony, 2010
Background information
Born (1967-12-09) December 9, 1967 (age 52)
Bloomington, Indiana
Occupation(s)Violinist and conductor
Years active1980s–present

Early life and educationEdit

Bell was born in Bloomington, Indiana, to Shirley Bell, a therapist, and Alan P. Bell, a psychologist, professor emeritus at Indiana University, and former Kinsey researcher.[1][2] His father is of Scottish descent, and his mother is Jewish (his maternal grandfather was born in then Palestine (now Israel) and his maternal grandmother was from Minsk).[3]

Bell began playing the violin at age four after his mother discovered that he 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 got a scaled-to-size violin for him when he was five and started giving him lessons. Bell took to the instrument but had an otherwise normal Indiana childhood, playing video games and excelling at sports, especially tennis and bowling. He placed in a national tennis tournament at age ten.[4]

Bell's first violin teacher was Donna Bricht, widow of Indiana University music faculty member Walter Bricht.[5] His second was Mimi Zweig, and his third the violinist and pedagogue Josef Gingold, who accepted Bell as a student after his parents assured him that they were not interested in pushing their son to be a star 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.

At age 14, Bell appeared as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Riccardo Muti. He studied violin at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and graduated from Bloomington High School North in 1984.[6] In 1989 Bell received an Artist Diploma in violin performance from Indiana University. IU also honored him with a Distinguished Alumni Service Award two years after his graduation. He has been named an "Indiana Living Legend" and received the Indiana Governor's Arts Award.


Bell made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1985, at age 17, with the St. Louis Symphony. He has since performed with many 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 Bell, who premiered it in 1993 and won a Grammy Award for his recording of it. He performed the solo part on John Corigliano's Oscar-winning soundtrack to the film The Red Violin and was featured in Ladies in Lavender. Bell also appeared in the movie Music of the Heart, with other notable violinists.

Bell's instrument is the Gibson ex Huberman, a Stradivarius made in 1713 during what is known as Stradivari's "Golden Era". This violin was stolen twice from its previous owner, Bronisław Huberman; the last time the thief confessed to the act on his deathbed.[7] Bell had held and played the violin, and its owner at the time, violinist Norbert Brainin, jokingly told Bell that the violin could be his for $4 million. On 3 August 2001, Bell was in London to perform at The Proms, and stopped by J & A Beare before the concert. He learned that the violin was there and about to be sold to a German industrialist to become part of a collection. Bell played the violin at that Proms concert that same evening.[8] He later sold his previous violin, the Tom Taylor Stradivarius,[9] for a little more than $2 million and bought the Gibson ex Huberman for a little under the $4 million asking price. The 2013 documentary The Return of the Violin tells the story of the instrument's theft, return, and subsequent acquisition by Bell.[10] Bell's first recording made with the Gibson ex Huberman was Romance of the Violin for Sony Classical Records in 2003.

Bell served an artistic partner for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra from 2004 until 2007, and as 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.[11]

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.[12] On May 3, 2007, the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music announced that Bell had joined the faculty as a senior lecturer.[13][14]

Bell collaborated with film composer Hans Zimmer by providing violin solos for the soundtrack of the 2009 film Angels & Demons, based on Dan Brown's 2000 novel of the same name.

In May 2011 Bell was named the new Music Director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields (ASMF).[15][16] He has recorded commercially with the ASMF for the Sony Classical label.[17] In July 2017 the ASMF announced a three-year extension of Bell's contract, through 2020.[18] Bell and the orchestra won the 2017 Helpmann Award for Best Individual Classical Music Performance.[19]

In 2013 Bell accompanied Scarlett Johansson in the song "Before My Time". Written by J. Ralph for the documentary Chasing Ice, the song received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Original Song.[20]

Bell played himself in three episodes of Mozart in the Jungle in 2014, 2015, and 2016.[21] In 2016 he had a cameo in the penultimate musical episode of Royal Pains.[22] He also appeared as himself in episode 8 ("Quacktice Makes Perfect") of the 2017 Netflix original series Julie's Greenroom.

Washington Post experimentEdit

In an experiment initiated by The Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten, Bell donned a baseball cap and played as an incognito busker at the Metro subway station L'Enfant Plaza in Washington, D.C. on January 12, 2007. The experiment was videotaped on hidden camera; of the 1,097 people who passed by, seven stopped to listen to him, and one recognized him. For his nearly 45-minute performance, Bell collected $32.17 from 27 passersby (excluding $20 from the one who recognized him).[7] Three days before, he earned considerably more playing the same repertoire at a concert. Weingarten won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for his article on the experiment.[23][24] The Washington Post posted the video on YouTube[25] and a feature-length documentary, Find Your Way: A Busker's Documentary, chronicled Bell's experience.[26]

Personal lifeEdit

Bell lives in the Gramercy Park neighborhood in Manhattan, New York City. He has three sisters.[27] Bell and a former girlfriend, Lisa Matricardi, have a son, Josef, born in 2007,[28][29] and twin sons born in 2010.[30] On October 5, 2019, he married opera singer Larisa Martinez at their home in Mount Kisco, New York.[31][32]

Selected discographyEdit

Year Album Billboard Classical Billboard 200
1988 Bruch Mendelssohn Violin Concertos, London Records
1989 Fauré Debussy Franck Violin Sonatas with Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Decca Records
1990 Presenting Joshua Bell, Polygram Records
1991 Chausson Concerto, Ravel Piano Trio, London Records
1992 Saint-Saëns: Violin Concerto No. 3 / Chausson: Poeme, London Records
1995 Prokofiev: Violin Concertos & Sonatas, London Records
1995 Brahms / Schumann Violin Concertos, London Records
1996 The Kreisler Album, London Records
1997 Barber / Walton/ Bloch Violin Concertos, Decca Records
1997 Shostakovich Piano Trio No. 2, London Records
1999 Maw Violin Concertos, Sony Classical
1999 Gershwin Fantasy, Sony Classical
2000 Sibelius & Goldmark: Violin Concertos, Sony Classical
2000 Short Trip Home, with Edgar Meyer, Sam Bush, Mike Marshall, Sony Classical 7
2001 Bernstein West Side Story Suite, Sony Classical 3
2002 Beethoven & Mendelssohn: Violin Concertos, Sony Classical 18
2004 Romance of the Violin, Sony Classical 1 176
2005 Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto, Op. 35; Melodie; Danse Russe from Swan Lake (Act III), Sony Classical 2
2006 Voice of the Violin, Sony 1
2007 Corigliano The Red Violin, Sony 1
2007 The Essential Joshua Bell, Sony BMG Masterworks 19
2008 Vivaldi: The Four Seasons, Sony BMG Masterworks 1 134
2009 Bruch, Mendelssohn, Mozart Violin Concertos (reissues), Decca 9
2009 The Best of Joshua Bell, Sony Masterworks 12
2009 At Home with Friends, Sony Masterworks
with Chris Botti, Kristin Chenoweth, Regina Spektor, Anoushka Shankar, Frankie Moreno, and Sting[33]
1 118
2012 French Impressions, Sony Masterworks 1 139
2013 Beethoven: Symphonies Nos.4 &7, Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Sony Masterworks 1
2014 Bach, Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Sony Classical
2016 For the Love of Brahms, Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Classical

Soundtrack albumsEdit

  • Chasing Ice Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, 2012
  • The Flowers of War Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, 2012: Joshua Bell, solo violin
  • Angels & Demons Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, 2009
  • Defiance Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, 2008
  • Ladies in Lavender Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, 2005: Joshua Bell, solo violin
  • Iris Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, 2001: Joshua Bell, solo violin
  • The Red Violin, Joshua Bell, solo Violin


  1. ^ Robinson, George (October 12, 2006). "Violinist Joshua Bell walks in the footsteps of masters". The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. Retrieved October 13, 2006.
  2. ^ Joshua Bell to return home for benefit performance. Indiana University Media Relations. Retrieved January 28, 2007.
  3. ^ Warren Boroson (January 20, 2012). "Q&A with Joshua Bell". Jewish Standard. Retrieved November 16, 2019.
  4. ^ The Univee, yearbook, 1978–9
  5. ^ "Music: The Teacher, The Lesson". Bloomington Herald-Times, January 15, 1989.
  6. ^ BHSN Yearbook, 1984.
  7. ^ a b Gene Weingarten, "Pearls Before Breakfast" The Washington Post, April 8, 2007 Page W10. Archived June 21, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Joshua Bell (January 26, 2017). "Joshua Bell: Here's the story behind my very famous, once-stolen violin". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved August 5, 2017.
  9. ^ "Antonio Stradivari, Cremona, c. 1732, the 'Tom Taylor'" Archived February 7, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, accessed October 2, 2013
  10. ^ Andrew Druckenbrod (April 11, 2013). "Joshua Bell treasures the Stradivarius at center of 'Return of the Violin'". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved August 5, 2017.
  11. ^ E-strings for the future musician. BBC News, July 18, 2002. Retrieved January 28, 2007.
  12. ^ Violinist Bell wins $75,000 Fisher Prize. CNN News, April 8, 2007. Retrieved April 8, 2007.
  13. ^ Joshua Bell to join IU Jacobs School of Music faculty
  14. ^ "Joshua Bell – Senior Lecturer in Music (Violin; Chamber Music)"
  15. ^ "Joshua Bell is the new music director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields", Gramophone, May 27, 2011. Retrieved May 29, 2011.
  16. ^ "Joshua Bell Named Music Director of Academy of St. Martin in the Fields" by Rory Williams, Strings Magazine (May 27, 2011
  17. ^ Melissa Block (February 15, 2013). "From Bow To Baton: Violinist Joshua Bell Conducts Beethoven". National Public Radio - All Things Considered. Retrieved August 5, 2017.
  18. ^ "Academy of St Martin in the Fields Music Director Joshua Bell renews contract for a further three years" (PDF) (Press release). Academy of St Martin in the Fields. July 27, 2017. Retrieved August 2, 2017.
  19. ^ "Helpmann Awards 2017 winners: Kosky's Saul and Belvoir's The Drover's Wife dominate" by Hannah Francis, The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 July 2017
  20. ^ Carlson, Erin (February 20, 2013). "Oscars 2013: Best Song Contender J. Ralph on Scarlett Johansson's 'World-Class' Singing Voice". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 12, 2013.
  21. ^ "Joshua Bell". Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  22. ^ "Grammy Winning Violinist Joshua Bell Guest-Stars on TV's Royal Pains", Jacobs School of Music, 20 June 2016
  23. ^ Howard Kurtz (April 8, 2008). "The Post Wins 6 Pulitzer Prizes". The Washington Post. p. A01. Retrieved February 24, 2009.
  24. ^ Barbara and David P. Mikkelson. "Bell Curved" Snopes; January 6, 2009
  25. ^ Video: "Stop and Hear the Music". The Washington Post. April 10, 2007. Retrieved February 17, 2012.
  26. ^ Find Your Way: A Busker's Documentary on IMDb
  27. ^ "Alan P. Bell, 70, Researcher Of Influences on Homosexuality", obituary by Carmel McCoubrey, The New York Times, May 24, 2002
  28. ^ "Joshua Bell: The lad with the strad grows up" by Peter Culshaw, The Daily Telegraph, February 19, 2009
  29. ^ "A touring Joshua Bell sustained by thoughts of home" by Greg Stepanich, The Miami Herald, January 20, 2011
  30. ^ "Joshua Bell Tells All" by Charles Donelan, Santa Barbara Independent, February 14, 2013
  31. ^ "The music man: Josh Bell at mid-career" by Anne Midgette, The Washington Post, February 6, 2017
  32. ^ 2019-10-08T10:13:00+01:00. "Joshua Bell gets married". The Strad. Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  33. ^ At Home with Friends at AllMusic

External linksEdit