Joshua Bell

An American violinist and conductor. He plays the Gibson Stradivarius.


Bell made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1985, at age 17, with the St. Louis Symphony. In 1990, at age 22, he went on the American Russian Young Artists Orchestra's first tour of Russia. 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. 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. He later sold his previous violin, the Tom Taylor Stradivarius, 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. Bell's first recording made with the Gibson ex Huberman was Romance of the Violin for Sony Classical Records in 2003.

Bell served as 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.

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