What I Know: Joshua Bell

The former wunderkind violinist is grown up and saying the darnedest things.

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Photo by Timothy White

AGE: 44  GIG: Grammy Award–winning violinist  NOTEWORTHY: French Impressions, his album with pianist and fellow IU Jacobs School of Music alum Jeremy Denk, comes out this month.

When I was little, sometimes I would get obsessed with a piece, and my parents would have to nag me to stop practicing. But other times, they had to nag me to practice. It’s a delicate balance.

Parents have to give kids structure, but you don’t want them to end up hating their instruments. My parents allowed me to enjoy being a kid.

The fact that I made my new record with another musician who went to IU is coincidental, because we just missed each other at IU.  But there are so many great musicians who have lived in Bloomington that it’s not much of a coincidence.

There is more to success than talent. There are some great musicians who don’t know how to deal with people and are less successful despite their talent. You also have to have the right temperament to get onstage and handle the stress night after night and not burn out.

I make mistakes every time I perform. I’m compulsive. I don’t do anything in moderation.

In the late ’90s, I started trading stocks online, and during the dot-com bubble I made a fortune but then lost everything. Every single stock I owned went to zero. I definitely got greedy.

Don’t get greedy.

I’ve had some close calls with losing violins. Once, I went to a truck stop to eat and forgot I’d brought my violin. I went back to the hotel and realized I didn’t have it. I didn’t remember how to get back to the truck stop and literally hailed an 18-wheeler to ask where it was. And there was my Stradivarius, sitting right where I’d left it.

The demographic at classical concerts can be older, but people have been concerned about this for hundreds of years. Somehow we keep getting audiences.

There’s no reason why young people couldn’t be blaring Tchaikovsky symphonies in their cars. The music is incredibly visceral and inviting. I like to roll down my car windows and crank a Beethoven or Mahler symphony.

Sometimes I get funny looks.

Coming back to Indiana to play is a special experience. My father passed away nine years ago, and I have a lot of memories of him there, so it’s always a bit melancholy as well.

Wherever I am in the world, I tell people I’m from Indiana.

—as told to Dave Seminara

 

This article originally appeared in the January 2012 issue.

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