Ever since I was 8 years old, I’ve known about violinist Joshua Bell. My teacher mentioned him in a story she was telling, and his name stuck.
Right after my lesson, I went home and looked him up on YouTube.
While I don’t remember exactly what I was listening to, I do recall my jaw-dropping sensation of awe.
I had always been very exposed to classical music. My parents would listen to it on the radio in the car and would take me to concerts at the Community Center and Mondavi Center.
But Bell is different.
I don’t know why exactly. Maybe it’s his charisma on stage, or his 1713 Huberman Stradivarius violin (which is an amazing instrument to say the least), or his exceptional playing?
The answer is probably a combination of all three.
His charisma on stage captivates the audience to the point where you are actually sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for the climax of the piece to occur or for the dissonance to dissolve.
As for his violin, in the music world the word Stradivarius (or Strad for short) has become synonymous with outstanding quality.
Antonio Stradivarius and his family built stringed instruments during the 17th and 18th centuries, the likes of which haven’t been matched in quality to this day.
When I was 13, I went to a Bell concert at the Mondavi Center. No matter what the reason for his excellence, I can easily say he’s one of the best violinists I have ever heard live.
I’ve seen Bell perform live two other times in my life, once when I was 14 and once earlier this year.
At the most recent concert, I knew I was in for a treat as soon as he started.
His first notes were those from Schubert’s “Rondo for Violin and Piano in B Minor, Op. 70,” a beautiful piece that I’ve never had the pleasure of hearing before.
After that opening, I was sitting up straight in my seat, my eyes glued to his flying fingers, every thought of sleepiness swept clean out of my mind for the rest of the concert.
By the end I had vowed to practice for at least three hours each day that weekend (needless to say, I ended up doing more like one to two hours each day).
You can imagine my surprise, therefore, when I looked in the program and saw the small line of text stating that Bell would be in the lobby after the performance to sign programs.
I was the first in line.
I expected him to be like most famous musicians who are portrayed in movies as being above everyone else and uninterested in those below them. How wrong I was!
When I walked up to the table, he started to talk to me. He asked me what my name was and how long I’d been playing violin.
And then, best of all, he shook my hand!
My face was shining as I left the lobby, my signed program and CD clutched between my fingers.
I guess I can finally check off meeting one of my favorite musicians of all time off of my bucket list.
Now all I have left to do is shake hands with violinists Hilary Hahn and Rachel Barton Pine.