Violinist Nelly Kovalev was born and raised in Ogre, Latvia, where she began violin lessons at age four. A year later she began her studies on the violin and piano at the Ogre School of Music. In 1992, at age 12, Ms. Kovalev moved to the U. S. with her family. She made her solo debut with the Salem Youth Symphony, performing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, also at age 12. Ms. Kovalev won a number of local competitions, including the Vernon L. Wiscarson Competition, which granted her solo performances of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the Oregon Symphony, the Vancouver Symphony, and Salem Chamber Orchestra. She was also the 1998 Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall Young Artist Winner.
Ms. Kovalev holds bachelor's and master's degrees in music performance from Portland State University, where she studied with Carol Sindell, a student of Joshua Heifetz, and performed Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante and concertos by Glazunov and Khachaturian with the PSU orchestra. Ms. Kovalev is the concertmaster of the Oregon Ballet Theater Orchestra, a member of the Eugene Symphony and the Portland Opera Orchestra, and a regular substitute with the Oregon Symphony. As a freelance musician Ms. Kovalev has worked with orchestras and chamber music ensembles, recording and giving solo recitals in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Florida, Latvia, Wales, South Korea, Germany and Austria. Ms. Kovalev holds a private teaching studio and is on the faculty at Reed College and Portland State University.