Joshua Bell is the product of keeping up with your violin classes.
With his shaggy haircut, dreamy eyes and preppy meets street fashion, the Indiana native, 46, has managed to make a career in classical music cool, hip and worth attaining. Bell’s compositions have been featured in such movies as The Red Violin, Angels & Demons and For Colored Girls. And he had a cameo in the 1999 movie Music of the Heart, with Meryl Streep, Angela Bassett and Gloria Estefan.
HBO took notice of the Grammy Award-winner; next month (Oct. 14) the cable network will air the documentary special, Joshua Bell: A YoungArts MasterClass, to coincide with the release of his latest classical album. The half-hour episode will be screened Monday evening as part of festivities celebrating the first ever YoungArts Awareness Day, a nationwide event honoring and encouraging budding artists across the country. Bell will lead a discussion from 7 to 9 p.m. at the National YoungArts Foundation headquarters at 2100 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami. We caught up with Bell before his trip:
Your schedule looks very busy. What else are you up to?
Well, I usually try to play between 100 and 150 concerts per year, and this year is no exception. I am about to begin the 2014-15 concert season with several symphony galas, starting with the New York Philharmonic with Josh Groban and [celebrated soprano] Renee Fleming. I continue with season-opening galas at the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., and with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. I finish the calendar year playing recitals in the U.S., Europe, and Russia with pianist Alessio Bax. I spend more time on the road than I do at home, but I happen to love traveling. I'm not complaining!
Can you talk about your project for HBO?
I love working with young talent. I find it inspiring This past year I toured with the Australian Youth Orchestra and the American Youth Symphony and I teach at my alma mater, Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music. The YoungArts alumni I worked with were simply awesome. Together with HBO, we came up with a way to mentor the students in a way that avoided the typical Masterclass experience in a classroom. Instead, I hung out with them for a week, showing them around my NYC neighborhood, eating at my favorite burger joint and rehearsing and playing a concert with them at my NYC loft. I then brought them with me to London where we took in the sights and played a show at a legendary rock club. They also came along to my recording sessions at Air studios in London where I was making my Bach album. All of this was documented by HBO, and I hope it was fun for them to get a little sense of what it's like to be a touring musician and recording artist. It certainly was fun for me.
What type of music do you love and listen to in your free time?
I listen to all types of music. My iPod is filled with the great classics, of course, including many versions of the great symphonic repertoire of Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn, etc. as well as lots of chamber music. I also listen jazz and other genres including recordings from my friends with whom I've had the pleasure of collaborating, such as Chick Corea, Branford Marsalis, Chris Botti, Sting and Edgar Meyer. But my favorite rock groups are Genesis, and of course the Beatles.
Any more movies in the future?
Ever since I recorded the soundtrack for the Oscar-winning score The Red Violin, I’m ever on the lookout for interesting work with film. Just this week I will be recording the music for a film about Albert Einstein, who was a violinist himself. He also happened to be a friend of [renowned Polish] violinist Bronislaw Huberman, who owned the 1713 Stradivarius that I now play. I have a picture of Einstein and Huberman — two of my heroes —on my studio wall, and I like to think about the fact that Huberman probably let Einstein play on my violin 80 years ago.
For tickets and info, call 305-377-1140 or visit youngarts.org/salonseries.