The first three decades have surely been something to remember.

Bell is an Indianan who, the story goes, was found strumming rubber bands stretched on his dresser drawers as a preschooler. His parents, who gave him his first violin at age four, were both in psychology. In fact, his late father was a researcher in the famous Alfred C. Kinsey human-sexuality studies. That work provoked profound controversy in the early 1950s, particularly in regard to Kinsey's heterosexual­-homosexual "rating scale," which introduced the idea of a person's sexuality falling somewhere on a continuum between the two extremes.

"I used to enjoy telling people about it," Bell says with a chuckle. "I could shock them. I guess it's a testament to the way my parents raised me. My father wrote books about homosexuality and all, and it never really bothered me. We grew up very open. Probably too open. Actually, I never really read his books. I should read them now. He was my dad, I just took it for granted."

Today, Bell says, his mother leads seminars in Bloomington, Indiana, on working with gifted children. His younger sister is in psychology, his elder one is an attorney. "When we were little, my older sister played the piano, my younger played the cello. But it was kind of like one in the family is enough." He was the one. The orchestral debut came when he was 14. He had his first recording contract at 18. He won a 2001 Grammy for his recording of the difficult, bracing violin concerto that British-born composer Nicholas Maw wrote for him. Bell has spent the past few months premiering the Red Violin concerto that John Corigliano wrote for him. Fans of the film quickly find that this is not the music Bell played in the soundtrack, but an all-new expansion of it into a formidable contemporary work all its own, jointly commissioned by the symphonies of Atlanta, Baltimore, and Dallas, and the San Francisco Ballet Association.