Indiana University

Skip to:

  1. Search
  2. Breadcrumb Navigation
  3. Content
  4. Browse by Topic
  5. Services & Resources
  6. Additional Resources
  7. Multimedia News

Media Contacts

Ryan Piurek
IU Media Relations

Alain Barker
IU Jacobs School of Music

Last modified: Thursday, May 3, 2007

Joshua Bell to join IU Jacobs School of Music faculty

May 3, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Grammy Award-winning violin virtuoso, newly-crowned winner of the coveted Avery Fisher Prize and Indiana University's favorite son Joshua Bell will return to his alma mater to join the faculty of the IU Jacobs School of Music, school officials announced today (May 3).

Joshua Bell will return home to join the faculty of the IU Jacobs School of Music.

Print-Quality Photo

The 39-year-old native of Bloomington, Ind., will follow in the footsteps of his late mentor and longtime Jacobs School violin professor Josef Gingold and join the school as a senior lecturer in the String Department. Bell began studying the violin at the IU School of Music at age 8 and received an Artist Diploma in Violin Performance from IU in 1989. He will begin his involvement at the Jacobs School in 2008-2009 through two week-long residencies during which he will be involved in a variety of activities, including coaching ensembles, working with students both individually and in groups, and participating in performances, among other activities.

"I can think of no greater place than the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, Indiana, to accept a faculty position," Bell said. "This continues an association that began back in 1980 when I first became a student of the legendary Josef Gingold, who had a profound impact on me as a musician and as a human being. I would only hope that I can impart even a fraction of his love of music and his wisdom to the students with whom I come in contact."

Bell is the latest addition to a long line of musical superstars who, in the last three years, have chosen to base their teaching careers in Bloomington. The list includes such luminaries as world-famous National Symphony Orchestra maestro Leonard Slatkin, pianists André Watts and Arnaldo Cohen, violinists Mark Kaplan, Alexander Kerr and Jaime Laredo, singers Carol Vaness, Sylvia McNair and Marietta Simpson, ballet master Michael Vernon, bassoonist William Ludwig and hornist Jeff Nelsen.

"Josh's decision to now develop an academic relationship with the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music gives us enormous pleasure and further confirms what those individuals who have chosen to center their professional lives already know -- that this environment is truly special, world-class and fully prepared to lead future generations of musicians toward greatness," said Jacobs School Dean Gwyn Richards. "With Josh's roots so firmly planted here, and with the wealth of young musicians who gather here, Bloomington seems an ideal place for this association. We look forward to the collaborations that will result from this appointment to the string faculty."

Joshua Bell and world-renowned maestro Leonard Slatkin, two of the newest members of the IU Jacobs School of Music faculty.

Print-Quality Photo

The appointment of one of the world's greatest and most well-known classical musicians adds a powerful dimension to the school's String Department, which has bolstered its ranks with the recent arrivals of Kaplan, Kerr, Laredo, cellist Sharon Robinson and violist Yuval Gotlibovich. The department also has strengthened its position as a leader in string pedagogy for years to come. Bell, Gotlibovich and Kerr, the former concertmaster of the famed Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, are all under 40 years of age.

"Having Joshua Bell on campus to work, instruct and play with our string students is absolutely unique among all major U.S. music schools and conservatories," said String Department Chair Lawrence Hurst. "Here is a great artist with a career second to none, moving among our aspiring violinists, violists, cellists and bassists, not to mention all the other music students he will influence and touch while here. He is a terrific, musical resource for the Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University and the state of Indiana."

Violinist Alex Kerr, the Linda and Jack Gill Chair in Music at the Jacobs School, has been a friend of Bell's and frequent collaborator for more than a decade. He said Bell's decision to join the faculty is a momentous one for the school, which he says is undergoing a "renaissance" and has become "the place to be" for many of the world's premier musicians.

"Josh is one of the most excellent performers on the stage today," Kerr said. "For students to have access to a performer of his caliber is unbelievable and almost unprecedented. It's very rare, in this day and age, for a musician of this magnitude to be giving back to students.

"It will be a really nice challenge for him," Kerr added, "and Josh is always searching for challenges. He's always taking risks. I think that Josh will find that these kids want to be inspired, and he'll also be inspired by them."

By now, Bell's story is well known. Born and raised in Bloomington, Ind., he began playing the violin at age four when his parents -- the late IU Professor Emeritus Alan P. Bell and Bloomington resident Shirley Bell -- bought him his first violin, after they noticed him plucking tunes on rubber bands that he had stretched around the handles of his dresser drawers. He began his studies with Mimi Zweig, director of IU's Summer String Academy for students ages 5-to-18. In true storybook fashion, Bell will join his first violin teacher on the String Department faculty.

"Having known Josh from his very early days as a talented violinist in the String Academy and then to see him expand into the amazing artist he has become, it is very exciting that he will be joining us," Zweig said. "Returning as one of the world's great violinists, his knowledge, wisdom and presence will be an inspiration to our students."

By age 12, Bell was a prodigious violin student of renowned violinist Josef Gingold, who taught at the Jacobs School for more than 30 years until his death in 1995. To this day Bell speaks fondly of his beloved teacher and mentor.

Bell first came to national attention at age 14 when he made his highly acclaimed orchestral debut with Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra. A Carnegie Hall debut, the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant and a recording contract further confirmed his unique presence in the music world.

Equally at home as a soloist, chamber musician and orchestra leader, Bell's career is exceptionally varied. He continues to perform regularly with the world's leading symphony orchestras and conductors. At the same time, his restless curiosity and multifaceted musical interests have taken him in exciting new directions, forging a unique career that has earned him the rare title of classical music superstar. In addition to his concert career, Bell enjoys chamber music collaborations with artists such as Pamela Frank, Steven Isserlis and Jacobs School alumnus Edgar Meyer, as well as occasional collaborations with artists outside the classical arena, including Josh Groban, Bobby McFerrin, Chick Corea and James Taylor. He also works regularly with pianist and Jacobs alumnus Jeremy Denk, who has garnered a reputation as one of the most inspiring collaborative pianists.

Joshua Bell rehearses with IU Jacobs School students in the school's Musical Arts Center.

Print-Quality Photo

Bell made his first recording at age 18, and he already had an extensive catalog of classical recordings when he joined the Sony Classical roster in 1996, hoping to expand his horizons as a recording artist. The result has been a distinctive and wide-ranging body of work that has rewarded him with a Grammy Award and Mercury Music Prize for his recording of Nicholas Maw's Violin Concerto and Germany's Echo Klassick Award for the Sibelius/Goldmark concerto recording. He also won the Gramophone Award for the Barber and Walton violin concertos.

Last month he was awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Prize, an honor bestowed on a few select musicians -- including Edgar Meyer, who graduated from the Jacobs School in 1984 and is the only bassist to receive the award, and pianist André Watts, who is the Jack I. and Dora B. Hamlin Endowed Chair in Music at the Jacobs School. The prize, a $75,000 accolade presented for lifetime achievement and his name on a plaque with the other recipients, firmly established Bell's reputation as the most revered U.S. violinist of his generation.

Bell received much attention following his three-year involvement with the 1999 film The Red Violin for which he was an artistic consultant and performed all the solo violin music. The soundtrack composed by John Corigliano received an Academy Award for which the composer proclaimed during his acceptance speech, "Joshua plays like a god."

In addition to his Avery Fisher and Grammy victories, this year he was the only U.S. musician named by the World Economic Forum as one of 250 Young Global Leaders.

Local audiences have taken special pride in their native son. The Indiana Historical Society named Bell an "Indiana Living Legend" in July 2000. Additionally Bell received the Indiana Arts Council Governor's Award in 2003 and a Distinguished Alumni Service Award, IU's highest accolade reserved solely for its alumni, in 1991.

Bell has taught master classes and given a number of standing-room only concerts at IU. He also has returned home to perform at the university's annual Summer Music Festival at the Jacobs School of Music.

At the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, approximately 1,600 students from all 50 states and more than 55 countries benefit from the intensity and focus of a conservatory with 170 full-time faculty members who are among the best performers, researchers and educators in the world, combined with the broad academic offerings of a major university. As one of the world's premier music schools, the Jacobs School maintains a distinguished reputation for the quality of its music program and the professional preparation it affords graduates.