Bell made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1985, at age 17, with the St. Louis Symphony. He has since performed with many of the world's major orchestras and conductors. As well as the standard concerto repertoire, Bell has performed new works. Nicholas Maw's violin concerto is dedicated to Bell, who premiered it in 1993 and won a Grammy Award for his recording of the piece. He performed the solo part on John Corigliano's Oscar-winning soundtrack for the film The Red Violin and was also featured in Ladies in Lavender.
Bell was awarded the Avery Fisher Prize on April 10, 2007, at Lincoln Center in New York City. The prize is given once every few years to classical instrumentalists for outstanding achievement.