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Bell studied as a boy first under Mimi Zweig, then switched to Josef Gingold after assurances from Bell’s parents that they were not interested in pushing their son in the study of the violin but simply wanted him to have the best teacher for their son’s abilities. Satisfied that the boy was living a normal life, Gingold took Bell on as his student and to this day, Bell speaks of Gingold fondly as a great teacher and mentor. At the age of fourteen, Bell appeared as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Riccardo Muti. He studied the violin at the Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, while managing to graduate from Bloomington High School North in 1984, a year ahead of schedule.

Carnegie Hall debut in 1985 with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. He has since performed with almost all of the world’s major orchestras and conductors. As well as the standard concerto repertoire, Bell has performed new works—he is the dedicatee of Nicholas Maw’s violin concerto, the recording of which won Bell a Grammy, and gave the world premiere of the work in 1993. He performed the solo part on John Corigliano’s Oscar-winning soundtrack for the film The Red Violin and was also featured in Ladies in Lavender. Bell also made an appearance in the movie Music of the Heart, a story about the power of music, with other notable violinists.

Bell’s instrument is a 300-year-old Stradivarius violin called the Gibson ex Huberman, which was made in 1713 during what is known as Antonio Stradivari’s "Golden Era." This violin had been stolen twice from the previous owner, Bronislaw Huberman; the last time the thief confessed to the act on his deathbed.[5] Bell had held and played the violin, and its owner at the time jokingly told Bell the violin could be his for four million dollars. Shortly thereafter, by chance, Bell came across the violin again and discovered it was about to be sold to a German industrialist to become part of a collection. According to the Joshua Bell website (joshuabell.com), Bell is quoted as saying "I was practically in tears" in reaction to the sale of the violin to the German industrialist. Bell then reportedly sold his current Stradivarius, the Tom Taylor, for a little more than two million dollars and made the purchase of the Gibson ex Huberman for a little under the four million dollar asking price. His first recording made with the Gibson ex Huberman was Romance of the Violin (under Sony Classical) in 2003. It sold more than 5,000,000 copies and remained at the top of classical music charts for 54 weeks. Joshua Bell’s most recent CD is called the "Voice of the Violin" and was released in September 2006. It features vocal pieces arranged for the violin.

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