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August 2016
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Violinist Joshua Bell and Trumpeter Chris Botti Collaborate at Ravinia Festival


Chris Botti and Joshua Bell are long-time friends who will share the stage with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival on August 12, 2016

Violinist Joshua Bell and jazz trumpeter Chris Botti have more in common than meets the eye.  Both musicians studied at Indiana University. Both have also won Grammy Awards.  Now, they will share the stage together as a part of a national tour.  The duo will appear with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival on Friday, August 12.  Bell and Botti will present classical and jazz favorites under the leadership of conductor George Hanson.  The concert marks Botti and Hanson’s CSO debut.

In anticipation of his performance with Chris Botti and the CSO, Joshua Bell spoke about this unique program.

“The reason for this collaboration is as much musical as it is personal,” Bell said. “I’ve known Chris since I was 16 years old.  Over the years, we’ve performed at some events, but we never really did a full concert together.  We said we should just do a double bill, and we’re finally doing it this summer.”

The duo has already performed in Orlando, Atlanta, and Denver.   With limited rehearsal time and different orchestras in each city, Bell and Botti continue to finish arrangements and decide repertoire on the go.

“I wanted to bring some truly classical pieces,” Bell confessed, “but ones that are readily accessible, such as The Four Seasons by Vivaldi, Piazolla tangos, and film music.”

He continued, “Chris tends to bring a violinist with him on tours, and we have a couple jazz standards that we perform.  I’m not going to claim to be a jazz violinist, but making these arrangements our own is a lot of the fun.  It’s really a variety show with a different vibe.”


Chris Botti

Bell noted that while both classical and jazz music require attentive listening, the relationship between artist and audience is relaxed during these performances.

“You talk to the audience and make jokes, you keep it casual,” Bell said.  “The audience feels more connected to the performers on stage.  It’s fun to be in that sort of environment.”

Are mixed format concerts the key to attract new audiences?

“It’s not a direction that absolutely must be taken, but there are so many opportunities to explore,” he stated.  “This tour was not forced and put together by managers, so it’s very natural.”

He continued, “There’s a time and place for these things.   There’s no place I enjoy more than Wigmore Hall in London.  It’s so serious, with hardcore classical music lovers that might scare away other audiences, but you know the audience appreciates it—there’s a place for that.

“There’s also a place for mixed format concerts.  We need these concerts for people to come in jeans and to also welcome children.  It’s not dumbing down the music.  You can still play great music, but you can play around with how it’s presented.”

By reaching new audiences, Bell ultimately hopes that “people leave saying, ‘I love Chris Botti and jazz, but I want to hear your Beethoven album.’  Classical music should be accessible to all.”




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