Saratoga County

Skidmore dance department establishes Oleg Moston Prize

Since the tragic death of pianist Oleg Moston nearly a year ago, the Skidmore community has taken st

Since the tragic death of pianist Oleg Moston nearly a year ago, the Skidmore community has taken steps to ensure that his name will live on at the college.

Moston joined the Skidmore faculty in 2005 as an accompanist in the college’s dance department. He was a concert pianist and soloist with the Moscow Philharmonic Society for 22 years before immigrating to the United States with his family.

“He was just one of those people, you feel you have known all your life,” said Debra Fernandez, chairwoman of Skidmore’s dance department.

“He gave us so much beautiful music,” she said. “He was such a beautiful artist.”

The faculty, students, and alumni of the dance department wanted to do something in Moston’s name so that he is remembered for years to come. Nearly a year after his death, almost enough money has been raised to permanently endow the Oleg Moston Prize.

Moston, 77, was struck and killed on the Northway near Saratoga Springs on Jan. 3, just two weeks after his beloved grandson, Nicholas Naumkin of Wilton, was accidentally shot to death by his friend.

Moston and his wife had just visited Nicholas’ grave at a cemetery on Weibel Avenue and Moston was walking back into Saratoga Springs and lost his bearings. He ended up attempting to cross the Northway near Exit 15 and was hit.

In just four months nearly $10,000 was raised for the Oleg Moston Prize, which is awarded to an outstanding graduating dance student. This year, the first Moston Prize — $500 — was awarded to Emily Craver of Framingham, Mass., during the college’s honors convocation in May.

“It is geared to helping the graduating student with support in the transition into the post-college dance world,” says a college statement about the prize, Examples could be that the graduating senior could study with a respected choreographer, gain performance rights to a performance piece, or travel to study a dance form to further a student’s scholarship, according to the prize description.

Fernandez said that the prize fund is just $2,000 short of becoming endowed in perpetuity. People wishing to make a donation may contact Skidmore’s Office of Advancement and ask about the Oleg Moston Prize fund. The Skidmore College website is

Moston and his family moved to the Saratoga Springs area after living many years in the New York City area. He was a principal pianist for several major ballet companies, including Joffrey and Alvin Ailey and played for Columbia University and the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.

Fernandez said Moston was very happy to play piano at Skidmore College. “He retired up here and just wanted to continue playing,” she said.

She said the dance department was thrilled to have a person as accomplished as Moston.

“We were all in shock,” Fernandez said about the accident that claimed Moston’s life early this year.

One of the dance program graduates, Elana Jacobs, Class of 2010, suggested the Oleg Moston Prize as a way of remembering the beloved pianist.

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