Joshua Bell's Insights for Teachers, Students: Part 2

March is Music In Our Schools Month® (MIOSM®), the time of year when music education becomes the focus of schools across the nation. Celebrate MIOSM in your school and community and raise awareness of the importance of school music!

MENC asked students and teachers to submit questions to ask violinist Joshua Bell. Here is Part 2 in the three-part interview with Joshua Bell. Read Part 1.

What do you think every violinist needs to work on as they continue to study the violin? — Jacob Lucero, Western State College

Joshua Bell:  In terms of every violinist, when they get to the level of a college student, and when I think of the students that I hear in college that are starting to be very serious about music– I think as a child you work on getting the notes and making a good sound, etc. But the things I think you start to think about more… the things I think they don’t think about enough are phrasing in music, and thinking about every phrase of music, and where it goes, and how you phrase it the same way an actor will phrase. We phrase when we speak very naturally. If we saw an actor in a play speak without phrasing and sounding like a robot, we would think it was terrible performance. Yet in music so often we tolerate playing the notes without really phrasing and telling its story with the music. As I get older I think more about every note, where it’s going, where it’s coming from, and where it fits in the phrase.

You recently performed at The White House. What was that like? — Anonymous

Joshua Bell:  It certainly was very exciting! This year I have played twice for President Obama. I am very lucky. Once was the first time that I met him, which was at Ford’s Theater where Abraham Lincoln was shot. This was for Lincoln’s 200th birthday celebration. President Obama was sitting in the first row right in front of me and I got to meet him which was very exciting. Being at the White house with all its history was a real honor and a privilege. I had a great time and was nervous for sure.
You collaborate with many different artists on your new album, At Home With Friends. It’s a very unique concept. How did this all come about? — Anonymous

Joshua Bell:  I have collected many interesting friends over the years, many of them classical musicians of course, but also many of them who are not and are in other areas of music. I thought it would be fun to bring together all of my friends that I have made over the years and make an album of basically just me and my friends. That’s how it started, and it’s something I like to do at my home in New York. I like to get friends to come over and we play. We have guests come so it’s kind of like a party but where people get up and play. We ended up calling the album At Home With Friends to represent the fun of making music at home with one’s friends.

Do you have any other projects in the works? — Anonymous

Joshua Bell:  There are a lot of things– my schedule is planned 2-3 years ahead of time so I know where I’ll be performing for the next 3 years. As far as recording projects, I’m planning on making in the spring my first record with the pianist that I’ve been touring with for the last 4-5 years. His name is Jeremy Denk. I also have some commissions in the works.

Next Week: Part 3 of the interview will include questions from parents and music education advocates

Listen to Joshua Bell’s “Why Music?” PSA

— Nicole Springer. March 9, 2010. © National Association for Music Education.