Joshua Bell, a violinist widely-admired by audiences and critics, was born fortuitously in Bloomington, Indiana, home of the Indiana University School of Music, which eventually assumed a decisive role in Bell's musical development. Bell was exposed to music from an early age and began his violin studies with Mimi Zweig. Bell's talents developed rapidly; he made his debut as a soloist in performance with the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra at the age of seven. The eminent violin teacher Josef Gingold, a member of Indiana University's music faculty, took an interest in him and became his teacher; eventually Bell entered the University as a student. Bell's studies with Gingold were supplemented by additional studies and master classes with Ivan Galamian and Henryk Szeryng. Bell came to wide national attention as a grand prize winner in the first annual Seventeen Magazine/General Motors National Concerto Competition in Rochester, NY. He soon appeared as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Riccardo Muti on September 24, 1982 — the youngest person ever to appear with the orchestra as a soloist on a subscription concert. Bell's 1985 Carnegie Hall debut with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra was greeted with the kind of enthusiastic reviews that were a bellwether of his successful concert and recording career.
By the mid-'90s, Bell had recorded much of the standard violin repertoire, exhibiting a musically informed and winning personal style. His playing is lyrical and bright, marked by a high-minded approach and a smooth, silvery tone. In the late '90s, Bell's eclectic tastes and multifaceted talents found voice in a wide range of projects outside the realm of the traditional violin repertoire. Bell's playing on John Corigliano's score to The Red Violin (1998) was singled out as one of the film's more memorable elements, while in 1999 he collaborated on a well-received CD of bluegrass-influenced music by composer Edgar Meyer. Bell has been seen on numerous television programs and was even named one of People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People." He continues to work with musicians outside the classical realm, such as Chick Corea and James Taylor, meanwhile performing with the world's top orchestras and conductors. Other collaborations led to Bell's establishing chamber music recital series in both London and Paris. Artists such as Steven Isserlis, Pamela Frank, Jean-Yves Thibaudet are his partners in these recitals and in recordings.
In 2001, Bell sold his "Tom Taylor" Stradivarius violin and purchased the storied "Gibson ex Huberman" Strad, subject of the 2013 documentary, The Return of the Violin. He made a notable appearance in 2007, busking in one of Washington, DC's Metro stations as an aid to Washington Post writer Gene Weingarten. Weingarten won a Pulitzer Prize for the piece that examined art and context, and Bell's participation stirred conversations for years afterward.