Five Questions with Joshua Bell

  • Jun 28, 2012
What would you ask Joshua Bell? That's what we wanted to know in our Facebook poll. The star violinist graciously agreed to sit with the OBF social media team right after his first rehearsal with the orchestra, Thursday afternoon. Thanks to Barbara Maier and Katy Dane for contributing questions. Q: You’re a busy busy man! What is the Joshua Bell time management system? JB: I have a fair amount of staff that helps me out. It’s not always easy... but I like the challenge and I enjoy being busy. I thrive on being busy. When I have downtime, I don’t know what to do with myself. When my days are fully packed...I feel most alive. [caption id="attachment_8490" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="Joshua Bell in rehearsal for the Mendelssohn concerto. Photo: Mike Goris"][/caption] JB: I am not good at practicing when I don’t have an immediate deadline...I don’t always have a lot of time, so I’ve learned to become efficient in my practicing. Sometimes I only have an hour and a day to practice, so I figure out what I want to do with that hour, concentrate on things that need the most work and not waste my time doing things that don’t need as much work. I’ve learned how to practice over the years. Q: (Barbara) What was it like growing up in Bloomington, Indiana, and did you have an early connection with the Music Dept. at Indiana Univ.? JB: I was born in Bloomington, which was fortuitous ... having the best music school in the country right there. My father was in the Psychology department at the University. My parents took me to concerts there from a very young age. Starting at the age of 12, I studied with Josef Gingold and spent half my day at high school and half my day at the University. I can’t imagine not having that influence [of Gingold] in my life; he was such a strong inspiration - the way he played, his connection to the old world of playing, the stories he told about all the greats was invaluable. He was one of the last links to that and I was so lucky to have that connection. [caption id="attachment_8491" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="Helmuth Rilling and Joshua Bell during rehearsal. Photo: Alissa Barry"][/caption] Q: (Katy) If you had to give up violin and have a 2nd career, what would you choose and why? JB: If I could stay in music, I would be very happy conducting... and I would like to do more composing. In the Mendelssohn, I’ve written my own cadenza, which I think is a first. I’m a wannabe composer. Q: Speaking of the cadenza, what was the time frame from the time you had the impulse to do it until you had something finished? JB: It was probably a couple of days. It’s evolved since then. Usually with those things, I get in a groove and don’t want to stop until I figure it out. It’s like a puzzle. Especially with the Mendelssohn, you have to figure out how to fit it in the middle and come in and out of it in an organic way. I love puzzles. Q: Could you describe in your own words, as it if were a fine wine, your ideal violin? JB: One is always in search of the perfect balance. I love the sound of a Stradivarius. The sweet, soprano sound of a violin epitomizes to me what a violin sound is. I also love playing on Guarneris and darker instruments. Finding the right violin is like a marriage. It’s like finding your soulmate. You want something that will continue to challenge you and a great violin will do that. There are violins that you will fall in love with immediately and then realize that they are sort of one-note and they don’t have a lot of complexity and depth. It’s the same with people. Like a marriage, you have your good days and your bad days... days that you’re frustrated and days that you fall in love again. Q: What was it like playing on Dancing with the Stars? JB: I am sure some people rolled their eyes at me doing the show, thinking it was kind of cheesy. I thought about it and I opted to do it because it’s important to keep classical music in the mainstream popular culture. I insisted when I did it that I had to do something serious, though, like the Vivaldi. The more we can keep it as not this elite thing on the side is important. And when I do stuff like that, I get people who come to shows that have never would never have come before. It’s very gratifying when I can help recruit another classical listener. Read All