Skip to main content

Joshua Bell

In March 2008, famed violinist Joshua Bell took center stage at the Strand Theatre in the Strand Capitol Performing Arts Center in York.

He joined the York Symphony Orchestra for "The Magic of the Red Violin" concert.

"We wanted to get the best talent and hottest names for our 75th season," YSO executive director Henry Nixon said.

It wasn't easy to book a big classical star such as Bell, Nixon said, but the risk paid off. The show sold out two months ago.

Before the performance, concertgoers gathered in the Strand's lobby. Nicole Fox, 19, and several other students in the York College Honors Program were attending their first YSO concert.

"We watched 'The Red Violin' on Thursday," Fox said. "It was a great movie."

Fox said she wasn't too familiar with Bell but was looking forward to the show.

Jill Janusz, 61, of Hanover said it was exciting that Bell came to play at a smaller venue, and he wasn't surprised the show sold out.

"I think the York Symphony deserves to play with someone like (Bell)," she said.

Earlier in the day, Bell rehearsed with the YSO, wearing a black sweater and jeans. He moved with the music and wore all the feeling in his face.

After he patiently signed autographs and posed for pictures with orchestra members, he retreated to his dressing room. Orange Gatorade, bananas and towels - at Bell's request - sat on the counter, where he put his prized violin in its case.

He stumbled over the Gibson ex Huberman made by Antonio Stradivarius about seven years ago in London and bought it for around $4 million. To Bell, the instrument is "priceless."

Bell said his parents gave him his first violin at the age of 4. He grew up in a musical family in Bloomington, Ind., right near Indiana University, which boasts a strong music program.

Bell, 40 at the time, never got into pop music but liked Genesis as a teen. Besides the violin, Bell said, he loves sports. He plays tennis and golf and follows pro football, namely the Colts and Giants.

But Bell's passion is classical music. He worked on the Oscar-winning score for the 1998 film, "The Red Violin." He won a Grammy for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance with an Orchestra in 2000. He made People Magazine's list of the "50 Most Beautiful People in the World" that year and was named Classical Artist of the Year by Billboard Magazine in 2004.

Despite the accolades, Bell was recognized by only one person on Jan. 12, 2007, when - at the request of a Washington Post writer - he played in a Washington, D.C., Metro stop. Much to Bell's surprise, the experience was widely publicized.

"It wasn't about people recognizing me," Bell said. "It was more about being able to recognize good music."

Bell will release a CD of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" this year, and he said he will work on the soundtrack for the upcoming film "Defiance."

So far this year, Bell said, he hasn't had more than two days off in a row. After the York concert and before traveling to London, Bell is headed home to the New York City apartment that he's almost done designing.

He'll get a whole week off, and he said he's looking forward to getting some rest, eating out and hitting the gym.

"I can't wait to do stuff that feels normal," he said.