Why We Can't Live Without Music
Art and music is part of what it means to be a human being.
Often referred to as the "poet of the violin," Joshua Bell is one of the world's most celebrated violinists. He continues to enchant audiences with his breathtaking virtuosity, tone of sheer beauty, and charismatic stage presence. His restless curiosity, passion, universal appeal, and multi-faceted musical interests have earned him the rare title of "classical music superstar." Bell's most recent challenge is his appointment as the new Music Director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, the first person and first American to hold this post since Sir Neville Marriner formed the orchestra in 1958. The ensemble's first 15-concert tour to the U.S. garnered rave reviews, and as one orchestra member blogged in Gramophone "the audience reaction all tour has been nothing short of rock concert enthusiasm." Their first recording under Bell's leadership as Music Director/conductor will be the 4th and 7th symphonies of Beethoven to be released by Sony Classical February 12, 2013 with plans to eventually perform and record all the Beethoven symphonies.
Always seeking opportunities to increase the violin repertoire, Bell has premiered new works by composers Nicholas Maw, John Corigliano, Aaron Jay Kernis, Edgar Meyer, Behzad Ranjbaran and Jay Greenberg. Mr. Bell also performs and has recorded his own cadenzas to many of the major violin concertos.
Bell has been embraced by a wide television audience with appearances ranging from The Tonight Show, Tavis Smiley, Charlie Rose, and CBS Sunday Morning to Sesame Street and Entertainment Tonight. In 2010 Bell starred in his fifth Live From Lincoln Center Presents broadcast titled: Joshua Bell with Friends @ The Penthouse. Other PBS shows include Great Performances – Joshua Bell: West Side Story Suite from Central Park, Memorial Day Concert performed on the lawn of the United States Capitol, and A&E’s Biography. He has twice performed on the Grammy Awards telecast, performing music from Short Trip Home and West Side Story Suite. He was one of the first classical artists to have a music video air on VH1 and he has been the subject of a BBC Omnibus documentary. Bell has appeared in publications ranging from Strad and Gramophone to, The New York Times, People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People issue, USA Today, The Wall St. Journal, GQ, Vogue and Readers Digest among many. In 2007, Bell performed incognito in a Washington, DC subway station for a Washington Post story by Gene Weingarten examining art and context. The story earned Weingarten a Pulitzer Prize and sparked an international firestorm of discussion which continues to this day.
Growing up with his two sisters in Bloomington, Indiana, Bell indulged in many passions outside of music, becoming an avid computer game player and a competitive athlete. He placed fourth in a national tennis tournament at age 10, and still keeps his racquet close by. At age four, he received his first violin after his parents, both mental health professionals, noticed him plucking tunes with rubber bands he had stretched around the handles of his dresser drawers. By 12 he was serious about the instrument, thanks in large part to the inspiration of renowned violinist and pedagogue Josef Gingold, who had become his beloved teacher and mentor. Two years later, Bell came to national attention in his highly acclaimed debut with Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra. His Carnegie Hall debut, an Avery Fisher Career Grant and a notable recording contract soon followed, further confirming his presence in the musical world.
In 1989, Bell received an Artist Diploma in Violin Performance from Indiana University where he currently serves as a senior lecturer at the Jacobs School of Music. His alma mater honored him with a Distinguished Alumni Service Award, he has been named an “Indiana Living Legend” and is the recipient of the Indiana Governor’s Arts Award.
In 2011 Bell received the Paul Newman Award from Arts Horizons and the Huberman Award from Moment Magazine. Bell was named “Instrumentalist of the Year, 2010 by Musical America and that same year received the Humanitarian Award from Seton Hall University. In 2009 he was honored by Education Through Music and he received the Academy of Achievement Award in 2008 for exceptional accomplishment in the arts. In 2007 he was awarded the Avery Fisher Prize and recognized as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. He was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame in 2005.
Today Bell serves on the artist committee of the Kennedy Center Honors and is on the Board of Directors of the New York Philharmonic. He has performed before President Obama at Ford’s Theatre and at the White House and recently returned to the Capital to perform for Vice President Biden and President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping.
Bell performs on the 1713 Huberman Stradivarius violin and
On the surface you might think we can do without music. Is it really practical? There’s so many ways to answer the question of why music is important. First of all, there's a reason why it’s in every single culture across the globe. Art and music is part of what it means to be a human being. And if you’re neglecting that, you’re basically ignoring a huge side of the brain and a huge side of what it means to be human.
But if you're looking to convince the people making decisions about education, you might want to show them evidence of what it does for kids outside of music, because we’ve heard a lot of stories about it but it is true. I have visited schools that have music programs and those that don’t. I see the way the kids act with each other.
First of all, the academics are always higher where there’s music education for some reason. It teaches kids so many different aspects of life, whether its math and numbers, which music incorporates, whether it’s reading, or learning Italian because music is often in other languages.
Music teaches people to work together, which is maybe one of the most important skills. It’s endless the amount of things that music touches on that can help kids grow that are very, very practical.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
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