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Violin virtuoso Bell to perform Wednesday at Gardner Hall

Now 32, prodigy known for adding his own touch

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Child prodigies all get their starts in different ways.

Violin virtuoso Joshua Bell's ability with string instruments became apparent at the age of 4, when his parents noticed his fondness for plucking rubber bands that he had stretched around the handles of a chest of drawers.

Although Bell began violin lessons after his parents made that discovery, he didn't catapult into the spotlight until the age of 14 when he won the Seventeen Magazine/General Motors Competition and made his debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Riccardo Muti.

Since then, Bell has made an international name for himself. As a classical artist, he has performed with the world's finest orchestras, working with the likes of Vladimir Ashkenazy, Charles Dutoit, Seiji Ozawa and Leonard Slatkin. He has won multiple Grammy nominations, praise from critics worldwide and a reputation for being one of the finest performers today, giving around 120 concerts a year.

Bell will be making an appearance in Salt Lake City as part of the Libby Gardner concert series on Wednesday, Feb. 7, at 7:30 p.m. The performance will be held at the Libby Gardner Concert Hall on the University of Utah campus, Purchase tickets at the Kingsbury Hall box office, or call 581-7100.

Now, at the ripe old age of 32, Bell has matured as an artist, although his ever-youthful appearance gives the impression that he is still a child prodigy.

He's known for adding his touch to the classical "standards" by composing his own cadenzas for most of the major violin concertos.

Bell has also expanded beyond the standard classical repertoire to collaborations with bluegrass, film and other music. His success with "Gershwin Fantasy" and the bluegrass "Short Trip Home" have both earned him Grammy nominations for "Best Classical Crossover."

His more recent collaboration with composer John Corigliano for the soundtrack to the film "The Red Violin" ended with an Academy Award for best original score. Bell served as artistic advisor, body double and the performing artist responsible for all violin sound. Upon receiving the award, Corigliano exulted, "Joshua plays like a god!"

Bell hardly takes a break between successes. His busy 2000-2001 concert schedule includes performances in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Camerata Academia of Salzburg and with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He's also working on a Leonard Bernstein project, based on "West Side Story," which will be recorded with the Philharmonic Orchestra of London under the baton of David Zinman.

E-MAIL: rcline@desnews.com