Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Violinist Joshua Bell Seizes the Conductor's Baton

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Violinist Joshua Bell Seizes the Conductor's Baton

Article excerpt

WHO: Joshua Bell.

WHAT: All-Beethoven program.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: New Jersey Performing Arts Center, 1 Center St., Newark; 888-466-5722 or njpac.org.

HOW MUCH: $50.

LISTEN: Joshuabell.com.

Joshua Bell doesn't consider himself a classical musician, though he can expertly play Vivaldi's "Four Seasons," as well as violin concertos by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Mozart.

That's because the 44-year-old - who played for President Obama and his wife Michelle in 2009 - can hold his own accompanying Sting on "Come Again," Broadway singer Kristin Chenoweth on "My Funny Valentine" and crooner Josh Groban on "Cinema Paradiso." He also dabbles in Gershwin and Bernstein.

The violinist will not only perform Beethoven classics at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark on Saturday, he'll also conduct the entire orchestra on this tour, marking his first time holding the baton. (It's a figurative baton, since Bell will be performing along with the orchestra while conducting.)

"It's opening up a lot of possibilities for me," Bell said. "Everything else I do limits other paths, and it's given me a chance to explore works I've known my whole life and put my own stamp on it."

Bell is conducting Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, a London- based chamber orchestra. He's the first American to be its music director since the orchestra was formed in 1958. He's leading his fellow musicians from the violin chair, and learning how to cue and inspire each of the 47 musicians in the orchestra.

This is something he's been working toward his whole life. At age 4, Bell first experimented with music using rubber bands and a dresser drawer to figure out notes and chords. The native of Bloomington, Ind., then started taking violin lessons and appeared as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra at age 14.

He made his Carnegie Hall debut when he was 18, and has since performed with nearly every major orchestra and symphony, and for a number of dignitaries, including Vice President Joe Biden, Jill Biden and the vice president of China this past Valentine's Day. …

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