Born in Moscow and raised in Alaska, OLGA BELL is an American composer, producer and performer based in Brooklyn. A prodigious classical pianist as a child and teenager, Bell graduated from the New England Conservatory in 2005, where her primary teachers were Patricia Zander and Victor Rosenbaum.
Bell started playing the piano at age seven and made her public debut two years later. At twelve Bell performed an original composition for piano and orchestra with her hometown Anchorage Symphony, at sixteen she was a concerto soloist with the Anchorage Civic Orchestra. As a chamber musician, Bell was a fellow of The Banff Centre, Yale’s Norfolk Festival and The Aspen Music Festival, where she coached with Claude Frank, Ann Schein and members of the Juilliard, Tokyo and St. Petersburg String Quartets.
For fourteen years Bell worked hard at classical music while filling every free, private moment with the sound of everything else. There was twelve-year-old Bell, alone in her bedroom at the end of the day, dancing to a radio playing TLC at the lowest detectable volume. There she was improvising piano medleys in the living room, gleefully combining Beethoven with Beatles songs and Beastie Boys beats. And there she was accidentally memorizing Björk, Radiohead, Aphex Twin and Wu-Tang records, DJing school dances and regaling friends with weird mixtapes.
But virtuosic performance, like figure skating or gymnastics, requires many hours of solitude and singular focus; dabbling in anything else is strictly off limits. It wasn’t until Bell failed to make the final round of auditions for Juilliard’s graduate program that she finally felt free to carefully consider the kind of music she wanted to make. Perhaps this freedom had been there all along, or perhaps failure is a better catalyst for change than success.
In August 2005 Bell moved to New York City, bought a laptop and started recording herself, singing into the computer’s built-in mic and chopping up beats. To make rent, she taught piano lessons and accompanied theater auditions. Over the next few years Bell did what newcomers do: she sang at open mics, she wrote feverishly on the subway, she formed a band with friends, they toured in a minivan, they played SXSW.
Olga Bell’s story is not one of overnight success, but of determination, growth and relentless energy. Her work is steeped in these qualities: her writing is fearless, her voice heralded as “lustrous” (Consequence of Sound) and “powerful” (The New York Times). She’s remixed Chairlift, Son Lux, the music of Annie Clark and Caroline Shaw’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Partita. In 2009 she was selected by composer Osvaldo Golijov and soprano Dawn Upshaw for a workshop and concert at Carnegie Hall. In 2011 she received the a Jerome Fund Grant from the American Composers Forum, to aid in the completion of her first large-scale composition Krai, which will be released in 2014 by New Amsterdam Records after a premiere at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. She has toured in the US and abroad, performing at CocoRosie’s Donaufestival in Krems, Austria and opening for The Haxan Cloak at London’s Shacklewell Arms.
Bell makes original music, remixes and videos under her own name. As half of Nothankyou, Bell makes dance music with British musician Tom Vek. In 2012 Bell joined Dirty Projectors for the band's Swing Lo Magellan cycle and remains a keyboardist and singer with the band today. olgabell.com.