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Joshua Bell speaks with Classical KC: 'You're lucky to have such an orchestra in Kansas City'

Violinist Joshua Bell
Philip Knott
Violinist Joshua Bell

Violin superstar Joshua Bell spoke with Classical KC's Christy L'Esperance about inspiring the next generation of musicians, working with Michael Stern and the Kansas City Symphony and a friendly competition he has going with fellow prodigy and musical superstar Yo-Yo Ma.


Christy L'Esperance: Thank you so much for taking a bit of your time to speak with us.

Joshua Bell: Thank you. I'm so happy to be here in in Kansas City.

CL: So you are one of the world's great prodigies. Last weekend I was watching a video of you playing the Tchaikovsky violin concerto at age 15 with my youngest daughter who's in her first year of violin. Her reaction was, "if I keep working really hard, maybe I'll play like that when I'm 15." (Laughing) Well, maybe not, but what would you say to a young musician who might need some inspiration to keep at it and to find their path.

JB: Oh, that's very, very sweet. Well, I would tell her that she could strive to be better than that. Not just as good as them, but I love meeting with kids. They often come to my concerts or to rehearsals, and it makes me so happy when I see children that are involved in music and youth orchestras. I do what I can just to show them how much I love music and how much it has affected my life. They don't have to become professionals to enjoy music. It's something that I think every individual should have in their lives. It enhances your life in so many ways, and hopefully just a little bit of my joy just rubs off when I talk to kids like that. Like your daughter. That's great that she, that you're clever enough to get her, you know, an instrument, of course, you're a musician yourself.

CL: So this is your fourth time performing with the Kansas City Symphony during Michael Stern's tenure, going all the way back to 2008. What emotions are you feeling knowing about the changes ahead for Michael and our orchestra?

JB: What can I say...I mean, Michael is one of my favorite musicians, favorite people and he has had an incredible run here and there's always a time, you know, when that has to come to an end. And that's always going to be sad and maybe bittersweet because he's done so much for the orchestra that put them in a position to to continue forward for 100 years to come. And so, I'm just, I'm grateful to be part of this, his last season, and to sort of celebrate with him what he's done with this orchestra and they really do sound fantastic. You're very lucky to have such an orchestra in Kansas City.

CL: We definitely know that and thank you for reinforcing that. So, what else is coming up for you on the horizon?

JB: Well, the summer is nearing and I'm popping around in the next couple of months with the Chicago Symphony and Seattle Symphony and then the summer festivals like Tanglewood where I've played 36 years in a row without missing one. I'm trying to set a record at that festival which, I'm not sure, I have to check to see if Yo-Yo (Ma) missed any years because he plays there every summer. I know he's coming soon to town too. So, I don't know, we may be up against each other for the longest run at Tanglewood. (Laughing) Don't tell him I said that. But anyway, I'm just kidding. The summer is fun. I get to travel to Europe a lot and Asia soon. And that's the life of a traveling musician.

CL: Well, it sounds like an exciting life. Joshua Bell, thank you so much for joining us. It's been such a pleasure to have you in town, both in conversation and in performance.

JB: Thank you so much. I love coming to Kansas City. Thanks for talking with me.

You can learn more about Joshua Bell at

Christy L'Esperance is the Community Engagement Specialist & On-Air Host for Classical KC.
Sam Wisman is a senior producer for 91.9 Classical KC and a backup announcer for KCUR 89.3