PFuzz’s musicianship — violin, electronics, teacher, producer, DJ — puts a hefty spark on Salt Lake City’s blossoming local music scene

On a Thursday evening in August 2023, when violinist Alexis Panda commanded the stage in downtown Salt Lake City’s International Artist Lounge, it was yet another impressive sign of the tremendous blossoming of the local electronics and DJ scene that has produced excellent musicians and producers.

Alexis, whose performing handle is PFuzz (derived from Panda Fuzzipants) was the ideal complement to follow Anode’s erudite live set delivering its own impressive sonic palette. PFuzz lit the flame with robust lyricism and rhythmic muscle in her playing form and technique, while demonstrating her equally potent chops in her DJ and electronic skills. PFuzz’s firepower is in enthusiastic demand. She also is a respected Ableton producer, as evidenced by a recent track Wet Bees at A Rave, rendered as psychedelic trance in electronic bass music. When she records her own violin playing, the audio is raw and, yes, no auto tune. 

An alternative violinist in the finest sense of the term, PFuzz stands out for her ease to move among and blend in numerous genres. She also teaches violin, with students ranging in age from eight to their sixties. And, as reels in her Instagram account demonstrate, she is a teacher who admonishes those, for example, who allow rosin to build up on their instrument. She is rigorous about students developing effective practice regimens and mastering basic elements such as scales, intonation and bow handling. Equally important in her pedagogy, she mentors her music students to reach whatever goal they aspire to in learning to play the violin. While she uses the Suzuki method, she also encourages her students to learn to read music early in their education, which helps develop their sight reading abilities as they become more advanced in technique and skill.

As a classically trained violinist, PFuzz’s student journey took her through some of the nation’s best known music schools and conservatories. Her violin studies began at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she was introduced to Dalcroze eurhythmics, which envisions the musician’s body as a finely tuned music instrument. She moved onto Suzuki lessons with CIM faculty Marta Soderberg, James Gomez and Michelle Higa-George. 

For four summers beginning at the age of 10, she went to the internationally renowned arts camp at Interlochen in Michigan. “I didn’t love Interlochen and I wanted to experience more than just music,” she said, adding that she enjoyed creative writing and loved sports and being as active as possible at the camp.

A member of the Cleveland Orchestra’s youth chorus and orchestra, she took lessons with Mari Sato of the Cavani String Quartet and both Kim Gomez and Takako Masame of the Cleveland Orchestra.

In her teen years, PFuzz had a tumultuous relationship with her mother, who insisted on being a helicopter parent, and with her dad’s death before she was set to enter high school, she received a merit scholarship for the Interlochen Arts Academy’s boarding school. There, she studied with Julia Bushkova, one of Russia’s elite violinists. 

In young adulthood, PFuzz was eager to embark on an independent path to decide how she wanted to stake out her life to accommodate her multitude of interests. At Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, she set out to study music performance, composition, educational leadership and microbiology. 

For graduate studies she went to the Berklee College of Music, where her mentor was Sandra Kott, a Boston Pops violinist. With her interests just as strong in composition and music synthesis, PFuzz loved the experience as a studio musician and she performed with the Video Game Orchestra. The outlet for playing her arrangements and originals with jazz saxophonist Gregg Osby and a Brazilian Jazz quartet nourished her appetite for diversifying her genres to a broader spectrum. She mastered electronic music production with DAW Ableton Live, and today is well known as an Ableton User Group organizer in Salt Lake City.

After teaching in the Boston and San Francisco metro areas, she moved to Salt Lake City more than a decade ago. PFuzz turned her attention to offering music education to historically underserved communities, via the El Sistema model. Building on her own childhood experience with Dalcroze eurhythmics, she became certified in yoga to mentor student musicians in understanding how posture and relaxation techniques augment one’s developing musicianship. PFuzz’s own playing form resonates with the guidance she offers to her students. 

When PFuzz auditioned to join Berklee’s music synthesis program, she said it was “incredibly intimidating at first, being in a male-dominated realm where I didn’t have much experience at all,” she recalled. “My boyfriend at the time didn’t take me seriously,” she added. “He didn’t want me to end up being better than him and all he wanted to do was to get married, which left me distraught.”

But, she resolved not to give into someone else’s dreams and to develop the skills she desired to become a multifaceted creative entrepreneur as a musician, producer, composer, DJ and teacher. The long pandemic hiatus gave her the time to develop her electronic catalog and creative tools so she could add DJing to her gig options. 

No doubt, her early Suzuki training primed her instincts to extend into the world of electronics producing, music synthesis and DJing. Suzuki students often learn short pieces as well as entire movements from works such as Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D minor from recordings, to emulate the quality, tone and textures. Making the transition to electronic music made perfect sense to PFuzz, as she explored everything from hip-hop to rap to trance and rave catalogs. It is fair to say that her music is like ear candy with a definite umami kick.

In her pursuit of crafting her own language of musicianship, she also was emboldened by the successful remixes of works by Baroque and Classical masters, including Bach and Paganini. She admired and obsessed over releases by Vanessa Mae, who is well known for her pop style recordings, as much as she did Midori, who gained fame as a youngster but continues to astound audiences with her masterful performances of great works for violin, such as Bach’s solo sonatas and partitas. PFuzz’s love of great violin repertoire extends to many masters who have composed for the instrument, including Belgium’s Eugène Ysaÿe, who was known as The King of the Violin in the late 19th century and first decades of the 20th century. With equal fervor and respect, PFuzz relishes the musicianship of Skrillex, Daft Punk, Nine Inch Nails and their peers. 

PFuzz said that she carved her alternative path to finding self- satisfaction as a musician because she did not want to risk becoming embittered, disenchanted or, as she would describe it, “a smug, anal retentive perfectionist.” Likewise, as she has developed an Ableton community user group, PFuzz has sought to make it clear that women should never feel hesitant or intimated about being involved in electronic music, which was long seen as a heavily male-dominated realm.

In her chosen music life with a solid, diverse range of creative channels to use, PFuzz explained that performing DJ and live violin sets have become especially memorable for her. “To see the crowd dancing their faces off makes me feel euphoric, like I am riding a cloud. It is an amazing out-of-body experience high that I just want to chase forever.”

For more information about PFuzz’s appearances, check her Instagram, and for more about her services, bookings and music lessons, see her website.  

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