Coralville teen wins YoungArts award for violin artistry

Violinist Katya Moeller, 16, of Coralville, has won a 2021 National YoungArts Foundation award in Classical Music/Violin
Violinist Katya Moeller, 16, of Coralville, has won a 2021 National YoungArts Foundation award in Classical Music/Violin. Moeller has been recognized at the Honorable Mention level, the organization’s second highest honor. A high school junior, she is looking forward to a career in performing and teaching violin. Her advice for young musicians “is to practice and to love it.” And even if it seems daunting, to find ways to keep your interest alive. (Photo courtesy of Tom Moeller)

Outside of her music world, award-winning violinist Katya Moeller of Coralville is just a regular 16-year-old who enjoys whipping up vegetarian alternatives, learning languages, traveling and playing with her cat and dog.

Inside her music world, however, is a teen with talent beyond her years, nurtured since age 4 and recently recognized with a 2021 National YoungArts Foundation award in Classical Music/Violin. Moeller received an Honorable Mention, the organization’s second highest honor, joining 659 young artists excelling in the visual, literary and performing arts.

She’s in good company. Among the previous winners are contemporary artist Daniel Arsham, Grammy-winning jazz trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard, Oscar-, Tony- and Emmy-winning actress Viola Davis, author Allegra Goodman, and singer, songwriter, actor Josh Groban.

Pre-pandemic, the YoungArts award winners traveled to meet up with other honorees, take master classes, and attend forums and Q&A sessions with “really fine musicians,” Moeller said. “I don’t really know what will happen this year. I’m assuming it will be online.”


Much of her world has shifted online, including her lessons with Almita Vamos, a member of the violin faculty at the Music Institute of Chicago Academy. Moeller is a Fellowship member at the institute, accepted into a program for about 30 high school students.

“We meet every Saturday for orchestra, chamber music, music theory, various master classes with renowned musicians, and that has moved completely online,” Moeller said.

While she doesn’t feel her instruction has suffered during the pandemic, she misses the social interaction with others being in the same room.

“I think the quality of the education is still just amazing, but the quality of sound is probably the issue, because microphones and technology don’t pick up the little nuances when playing,” she said. “So that’s one issue, but I think I’ve gotten used to it. You learn to adapt and I’ve learned to actually better my dynamics more over the screen, because I have to be really super quiet and then loud is very loud. You have to make sure that you can hear that distinction over a microphone, and that translates into my playing, as well. I put in a different approach.


“I really miss playing with people and seeing my friends,” she said, “because a lot of my social relations come from music, and through a screen, it’s hard.”

She’s traveled a circuitous educational path, beginning her violin studies at the Preucil School of Music in Iowa City at age 4, then at age 8, overlapping with lessons in Chicago until age 10, when she left Preucil to concentrate solely on lessons in Chicago. Her father, Tom Moeller, has been her chauffeur for those Windy City trips.

Back home, she started her freshman year at West High School in Iowa City, participating in the orchestra and taking the regular classes, but by her sophomore year, she transferred to an online program offered through the Indiana University High School.

“It’s a program that offers regular classes online. That enables me to make out my schedule, take courses based on my interests rather than credit hours and requirements,” she said. “That gives me the flexibility to practice and travel a lot.”

And she has traveled a lot, from Bulgaria to Bangkok.

She has performed far and wide with her mother, concert pianist Ksenia Nosikova, a professor of piano at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, and a guest artist with Orchestra Iowa. Moeller’s mother not only accompanies her, but they have collaborated for 10 years. As the Avita Duo, they have performed in Italy, Austria, Brazil, Southeast Asia and Nosikova’s native Russia, as well as in Illinois, Maine, Colorado, Minnesota and Iowa.

Moeller is fluent in Russian, and has made annual trips to Moscow to see family since she was 6 months old. They don’t do the “touristy” things — they retreat to a country house, known as a “dacha.”

“I really like it there, because there’s limited technology so I kind of detach from the world, and we spend a lot of time outside. We have fruit growing and a garden and it’s really fun, just being outside all day,” she said.

She takes her violin, with the intention of practicing, “but that doesn’t always happen,” she added.

Other Awards

Moeller’s artistry hasn’t suffered from those brief breaks, and the YoungArtists Foundation award isn’t her only accolade.


In 2020, she won first prize in the World Bach Competition, the ODIN International Music Competition and the 1st World Violin E-Competition “Napolinova,” as well as the second prize in the 1st Harmonium OnlinePlus International Music Competition.

In 2019, Moeller was the grand prize winner in the ENKOR International Violin Competition and was one of the 10 semifinalists of the 2019 Ysaye International Music Competition in Liege, Belgium. In 2018, she was a prize winner in the Semper International Music Festival Competition in Italy.

As part of Dasani String Quartet, she was the grand prize winner at the Chicago International Music Competition last May and received a silver medal at the 2020 Fischoff Chamber Music National Competition. She also won the 2020 Iowa Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) competition and will advance to the West Central Region Finals in 2021.

She made her orchestra debut with the Central Iowa Symphony in April 2017 and has since been featured with the University of Iowa Symphony Orchestra in programs for the Iowa City School District’s fourth-graders, as well as three performances of Glazunov’s Violin Concerto with the Southeast Iowa Symphony Orchestra.

Professional Praise

That’s just a few of her accolades. Experts on the local music scene also sing her praises.

“Katya is a team player,” said Miera Kim of Iowa City, violinist and executive director of Red Cedar Chamber Music, with whom Moeller will perform in May. “So often, young musicians who are successful in international competitions are only capable of playing with a very soloistic sound. Katya is of course capable of that, but she can also control her tone color to play chamber music and blend beautifully with others. ...

“(Husband Carey Bostian) and I have had the delight of working with Katya over the years, and look forward to working with her until she graduates from high school and moves away. She is such a talented young woman, dedicated to her craft, and her playing is always lyrical and beautiful,” Kim said.

“I love Katya,” exclaimed Orchestra Iowa Maestro Tim Hankewich of Cedar Rapids. “She’s one of those rare young artists that don’t come along very often. She’s been blessed with talent in spades, and is additionally lucky to have such a loving and supporting family who have been able to help her develop and thrive as she pursues a life of performance.

“I foresee great things continuing to happen for her in the future, and one day soon we’ll all be able to brag about knowing her when she was growing up in Iowa. Already at a young age she’s developing a unique artistic voice in her playing.


“What impresses me most about Katya, however, is her poise,” Hankewich added. “She’s got a great head on her shoulders and takes the pressures of performance seemingly with ease. I wish I had that kind of magic.”

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