An Interview with the Gifted Greek Musician Ellie Tsachtani

Ellie Tsachtani will be performing at Queens College on May 3. (Photo: Courtesy of Ellie Tsachtani)

NEW YORK – Music is a universal language that transcends culture and inspires and connects people everywhere. Thessaloniki-native Ellie Tsachtani began playing the flute at a young age. She was then accepted at the renowned State Conservatory of Thessaloniki where she received her Diploma with A+. After that, Tsachtani moved to New York at age 18 with a full ride scholarship from Bard College where she pursued a double degree in a five-year program and earned a Bachelor of Music and a Bachelor of Dance. She earned her Master’s degree in Classical Music Performance at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College.

Tsachtani spoke with The National Herald about her lifelong love of music, her dedication to her art, her musical family, and sharing her unique Greek cultural heritage with the world through music and performance.

When asked about her background and if she always wanted to pursue music, Tsachtani told TNH, “I was born and raised in Thessaloniki, the second biggest city of Greece. It always felt that there was enough cultural activity going on and at the same time, the cozy feeling of a city that isn’t the capital of the country.

“My love for music began since I can remember myself. I have memories feeling nourished and rejuvenated by pieces of music from a very early age. I started playing the flute when I was only ten years old and progressed very quickly. I got accepted to the State Conservatory of Thessaloniki which was and still is considered a very prestigious music institution and fell in love with all aspects of flute playing.”

About her family’s connection to music, Tsachtani said, “The entire family from my mother’s side consists mostly of classically-trained musicians who make a living in the music field. That along with their support definitely impacted me and encouraged me to keep practicing and working my way through all these years.

The talented Ellie Tsachtani on flute and Glafkos Kontemeniotis on piano. Photo by Fotios Kaliampakos

“I have an aunt and an uncle who are string players and current members of the State Orchestra of Thessaloniki, a younger brother who is an incredible clarinetist, an older cousin who plays the piano and for the past 10 years has been studying, performing, and teaching in Vienna, another cousin who is a violinist and currently is pursuing his Master’s at the Royal Academy in London and lastly three younger cousins who play guitar, bass, and cello. I have many memories of the entire family getting together to form our family orchestra and perform all kinds of repertoire during Christmas and other holidays. These core memories have definitely shaped my attitude towards music making, my love for the arts and a feeling that classical music can potentially speak to any person’s soul, regardless of one’s background and sense of identity. I experienced what it feels like to be a member of a family orchestra, where kids, and professional musicians, in other words all levels come together in an inclusive way to share their love for music and one another.”

When asked what inspires her and her music, Tsachtani told TNH, “The way I and many others see it is that, music is a universal language; it is the language of emotions and spirit. There are so many dimensions to it that give pleasure and meaning to my life. For me, playing the flute is an incredible outlet, a perfect way to blow off steam, release trapped emotions, and also express ideas in the most tangible and direct way. There is a therapeutic side to it one might say along with a highly intellectual one. By that I mean that I have noticed throughout the years that practicing the flute and being so deeply dedicated to music has benefited tremendously my reasoning, my memory, my sense of personal freedom, and joy of self-expression. The hours I spent in the practice room never felt like a sacrifice but more like a choice. Noticing all those musical patterns, the relationship between structures, the architecture of a piece and realizing the cause and effect thread that binds it all together have made practicing a very powerful mental workout.

“As well as the nature of being a musician, thus exposing yourself by performing in public, forced me to mature quickly and learn to be honest with myself; being aware of my strengths, my weaknesses, and maintaining a positive and creative attitude during my own personal growth as an artist was an incredible gain. Practicing felt from an early age like a kind of meditation that showed me an entrance to being present, relaxed, alert, and enthusiastic. I found out that the quickest way to learn any piece, or overcome any difficulty is to approach it intelligently, find the fun in it and indulge in the pleasure and the joy that comes with every small or big accomplishment.”

About upcoming projects, Tsachtani told TNH, “I am currently working on a big recital along with my pianist, that is taking place in Queens College on May 3rd at 7 PM. I have put together a repertoire that I feel very strongly about and am incredibly excited to be performing it soon.

“I am also preparing a recording of the same repertoire that consists of two solo pieces, one of them by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and the other by the French composer Eugene Bozza as well as a piece by Martin, Borne, and Reinecke. Besides that, I am preparing a really incredible performance with the Pancyprian Association of NY that will take place in early June for which I am super excited. Being Greek means a great deal for me. Being here as an ambassador of the cultural heritage of my country and putting together shows and performances that promote our cultural identity are my great passion. Performing music composed by remarkable Greek composers for the Greek and Cypriot communities of New York feels like an incredible responsibility and a way to share my gratitude for everything my country taught me to be as a person and an artist.