Joshua Bell Surprises PenPals

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Grammy Award-winning violinist Joshua Bell paid a surprise visit to the 5th graders at Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary in East Harlem on Wednesday, December 20th. The students had written to Bell after learning about him while studying the violin through the Education Through Music program.

December 22, 2006 – Grammy Award-winning violinist Joshua Bell paid a surprise visit to the 5th graders at Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary in East Harlem on Wednesday, December 20th.  The students had written to Bell after learning about him while studying the violin through the Education Through Music program.  They were delighted with Bell’s performance of Bach’s “Chaconne,” and even more thrilled by how much he enjoyed their own performance.  Bell, whose current CD, Voice of the Violin, is at the top of the classical charts, is the first celebrity to visit Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary.   
Sometimes the life of an inner-city child is held by nothing more substantial than a few violin strings.
And so, on Wednesday, December 20th, Grammy Award-winning violinist Joshua Bell paid a surprise visit to his littlest fans, the 3rd, 4th and 5th graders’ music class at Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary in East Harlem.  Bell performed Bach’s “Chaconne,” for the students, but the real show-stopper was their performance for him.
The students at Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary, all of whom learn to play string instruments through the school’s partnership with Education Through Music (ETM), have been learning about Mr. Bell’s life and work, and decided to write him and invite him to their school.  Their studies culminated in a “Joshua Bell Day”, in which Mr. Bell surprised the young musicians with an in-school visit, speaking about his work and sharing his love of classical music. Mr. Bell, whose current CD, Voice of the Violin, is at the top of the classical charts, is widely known for his brilliant performance on the soundtrack to The Red Violin, which earned an Oscar® for best original score.
“I believe in the power of music to help all children do better in school,” said Bell, “so I get very excited when I hear about a program that involves every student regardless of talent, or prior training, and has music as part of its core curriculum rather than outside it. That’s the way it should be done.”
ETM is a non-profit organization that helps inner-city schools implement and sustain high-quality music programs that support overall academic achievement. Every child, including those with special needs, in each of ETM’s Partner Schools receives music class at least once a week.
Bell decided to become involved with after meeting Executive Director Katherine Damkohler and learning about the organization’s programs and successful partnerships in disadvantaged schools in New York City. ETM’s partnership with Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary remains one of its longest, and its strings program is one of its most successful.  Research has shown that grades, academic scores, and self-esteem rises exponentially when music education is introduced, and through ETM’s programming, music is treated like a core subject. 
“To have an artist like Joshua Bell be involved with ETM, and take the time to visit with these students is such an honor for the school community,” says Ms. Damkohler. “He is not only a wonderful musician, but also a terrific human being.”

Founded in 1924, Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary School has become a beacon of hope for the African-American and Latino communities of East Harlem, providing several hundred students in grades Pre-K through 8th with an effective and solid education. The school provides a Catholic-Christian community that views each child as an individual with unique talents and needs. Its dedicated administration and faculty encourage all of its children to grow spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, socially, and physically within the family of the caring school community. The school is located in the poorest section in Manhattan in which 56 percent of residents live below the poverty line. Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary serves 100% children of color and every student is eligible for the Federal Free or Reduced Lunch Program, as determined by family income.  

About Education Through Music, Inc.
Founded in 1991, Education Through Music, Inc. (ETM) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation that promotes the sustainable integration of music into the curricula - including reading, social studies, math and science - of elementary and middle schools in order to enhance students' academic performance and general development.  ETM is unique within the arts-in-education community for our focus on academics and changing the current state of the educational system.  ETM’s unique methodology engenders systemic changes in teaching practices that help children learn, think and socialize better.  ETM works with a variety of groups throughout the country, including individual schools, local and statewide education agencies, and arts and cultural organizations.  We serve our partner schools from multiple angles and involve all members of the school community in reforming the school to incorporate the arts.  Music is taught in its own right and also as a means of supporting learning in other areas.  ETM’s programming currently serves over 7,000 children in 15 public and parochial schools in New York City, and its model is being adopted by school districts across the country. For more information, visit us at

About Joshua Bell
For over two decades, Joshua Bell has been captivating audiences worldwide with his poetic musicality. He came to national attention at the age of 14 in a highly acclaimed orchestral debut with Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra. A Carnegie Hall debut, the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant and a recording contract further confirmed his unique presence in the music world. Now in his thirties, he continues to perform regularly with the world's leading symphony orchestras and conductors. At the same time, his restless curiosity and multifaceted musical interests have taken him in exciting new directions, forging a unique career that has earned him the rare title of “classical music superstar.”

Bell has recorded a diverse collection of albums since joining Sony Classical in 1996, including the Grammy® Award-winning Maw violin concerto. For three years, he was deeply involved in the creation of John Corigliano's Academy Award-winning score for the 1999 film The Red Violin, which won the Academy Award® for Best Original Score. In addition to Grammy Awards, Bell has won the Mercury Music Prize for Classical Album of the Year in 2000, and was recently inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame.

Bell appeared as himself in the film Music of the Heart starring Meryl Streep, and has appeared on Late Night With Conan O'Brien as well as on the PBS programs Great Performances and A&E's Biography. He was one of the first classical artists to have a music video air on VH1, and he has been the subject of a BBC Omnibus documentary. Bell has been profiled in publications ranging from Newsweek to People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People issue, Gramophone and The New York Times, which stated, "No one stands in Mr. Bell's shadow."

In 1989, Bell received an Artist Diploma in Violin Performance from Indiana University   He currently resides in New York City and serves on the Kennedy Centers Honors Committee.  He plays the 1713 Gibson ex Huberman Stradivarius.


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