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Published: 1/20/2008

The virtuoso next door: Superstar violinist Joshua Bell enjoys football, video games, too

Joshua Bell performs with the Toledo Symphony Thursday evening. Joshua Bell performs with the Toledo Symphony Thursday evening.
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He's hooked on video and computer games. He loves movies, hanging out with friends, and bowling, tennis, and golf.

"Every musician or artist has to have hobbies to get away from music. I definitely need to get away from it," Bell said.

He's had some big years recently. In 2000, his home state awarded him Living Legend Status, and People magazine called him one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World.

Last year was huge for Bell, too.

He won the prestigious Avery Fisher Prize. He was the only U.S. musician named as one of 250 global leaders by the World Economic Forum. He joined the Indiana University faculty.

Oh, yes, and he became a first-time father.

Fortunately People magazine didn't shadow Lisa Matricardi, the mother of his son, Josef Matricardi Bell.

"It's an unconventional situation," Bell admitted of the decision he and Matricardi, a longtime girlfriend and now New York City violinist, made to have a child outside marriage. "I live an unconventional life," Bell said, by way of explanation. "I didn't see any other way to do it.

"It's working out beautifully right now. It's great to have this anchor," said Bell. He doesn't live with Matricardi and Josef, but he's very much a part of his son's life.

"I get to see him every day. But I have no sleepless nights."

Josef is named for Bell's first major teacher, the late Josef Gingold, then on the IU faculty, who took on Joshua when he was 12 and clearly already a world-beater violinist.

"He gave me so many things," Bell recalls. "He loved music so much it just rubbed off. It was crucial. I took a huge leap from age 12 to 13, felt I was a completely different person. At age 14 my career started, due to an influence from him," says Bell, who became the youngest person to solo with the Philadelphia Orchestra that year.

"He taught by example," Bell recalls fondly. "He was not a taskmaster. He earned your respect and one wanted to please him, but not out of fear. He was like a grandfather."

With his son, Bell intends to expose him to music in the same way Gingold led the young musician deep into the world of music.

"In general, you lead by example," explains Bell, who already plays his violin around his son. "I will be a musician and I am a musician. He'll see that."

Joshua Bell will perform at 8 p.m. Thursday in the Stranahan Theater. Remaining tickets are $30-$55 at www.toledosymphony.com or 419-246-8000.

Contact Sally Vallongo at: svallongo@theblade.com.



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