Carey Bell joined the San Francisco Symphony as Principal Clarinet in 2007 and holds the William R. & Gretchen B. Kimball Chair. This week’s concerts mark his seventh solo appearances with the orchestra, having previously performed Nielsen’s Clarinet Concerto with Herbert Blomstedt, Debussy’s Première Rapsodie and Bernstein’s Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs with Michael Tilson Thomas, and Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto on three occasions with Jaap van Zweden, Bernard Labadie, and Esa-Pekka Salonen.
Cultivating a career in the Bay Area for over two decades, Bell has performed with numerous local orchestras and chamber ensembles. He is a former member of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players and has participated in several other local contemporary music groups. His summer engagements have included appearances at the Marlboro Music Festival, Music@Menlo, Oregon Bach Festival, and Telluride Chamber Music Festival. Notable chamber performances include collaboration with violist Scott St. John and pianist Jonathan Biss for San Francisco Performances, and Lukas Foss’s Echoi with Jeremy Denk, Peter Wyrick, and Jack van Geem, as part of the San Francisco Symphony’s 2012 American Mavericks tour, culminating in a performance at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall.
Bell was born and raised in Eugene, Oregon, where he developed his musical skills as a pianist, singer, and composer. After taking up clarinet at age 12, he studied for several years with Cindi Bartels. He received several honors as a young clarinetist, and he wrote a symphonic overture performed by the Oregon Symphony in 1992. For his undergraduate work, he studied with Fred Ormand at the University of Michigan and pursued a composition degree with William Bolcom, Bright Sheng, Michael Daugherty, and Evan Chambers. As a student, he participated in summer fellowships at Tanglewood and the Music Academy in Santa Barbara. After graduating he continued his clarinet studies with Larry Combs, then principal clarinet of the Chicago Symphony.
Bell spent one year as a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago before winning his first audition for principal clarinet of the Syracuse Symphony in 1998. He became principal of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra in 2001, and has served as acting principal of the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra and guest principal of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Bell teaches at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and formerly taught at Stanford University.