April 8, 2019

MSM Spotlight:
Classical pianist Gabriela Fahnenstiel (MM ’19) and jazz guitarist Michail Tsiftsis (MM ’20)


Gabriela and Michail are taking part in the International Students’ Concert and Live Webcast in Miller Recital Hall on Tuesday, April 9 at 7:30 PM. This annual event features MSM students from around the world, performing works by composers from their home countries.

Gabriela and Michail talk about this week’s performance and why they’re happy to be at Manhattan School of Music.

Why are you excited about this concert?

Michail: I’m looking forward to performing with my fellow jazz musicians and international students. This is a special concert because it showcases the incredible talent of students who come to the United States specifically to study at MSM.

Gabriela: Music, by its nature, is international. I think it is wonderful that MSM dedicates a concert to pieces from our home countries, showing the diversity of music and of the school!

Tell us about a piece that you will be performing.

Gabriela: I’ll be playing the first movement of Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 1. It’s a very special work to me because I first heard it when I was 11 or 12, and even at a young age I was captivated by how one piece of music could have such drama and drive, while maintaining lyrical passages and subtle melodies. This will be my first opportunity to perform Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 1 publicly, and I’m happy to share this emotional piece with an audience.

Michail: We are performing a piece that I wrote called Origami Blossom, which I composed specifically for the group that I’m playing with. I am from Greece, so you can hear the influence of Greek music in this composition, along with jazz harmonies, and melodies from my peers’ home countries.

Gabriela Fahnenstiel, Classical Piano (MM '19) (left), Michail Tsiftsis, Jazz Guitar (MM '20). Photos by Toby Winarto, Viola (BM '19)

What is your favorite thing about being an MSM student?

Michail: As a jazz musician, New York City is the place to be. I’m a first year master’s student here at MSM, and I haven’t had a chance to be around musicians of this caliber before, it’s amazing. I enjoy working with students who are really focused on their craft and are happy to make music every day.

Gabriela: I could say the same for classical music: everything happens in and around New York! I feel that all great musicians come to NYC at some point in their lives — the atmosphere at MSM, but also in the city, inspires me to keep reaching for my dreams. I’ve learned a lot from my teachers at MSM, and not just about piano performance, but also the history of my instrument, which is very important to me!

Do you have any other performances or projects in the works?

Michail: I have a few really big gigs in NYC with the group that I’m performing with in this concert, and I’m also looking forward to playing shows in Greece over the summer.

Gabriela: Yes! I have my own small-concert series back home in Germany, called Mary Codman Classics where I organize four to five concerts per season. We also just raised money to get a new Steinway piano in our hall, and it has finally arrived! Now that we have this beautiful instrument available to us, I’m excited to play chamber music with young musicians who are just starting out in their careers, and also with already established artists.

As a jazz musician, New York City is the place to be. I’m a first year master’s student here at MSM, and I haven’t had a chance to be around musicians of this caliber before, it’s amazing.

MSM jazz guitarist