April 24, 2024

Preparatory alum wields ‘The CIM Advantage’ in wide-ranging performance and teaching career

A stylized photo of Alexis Panda with her violin.

It’s amazing what one can build atop a solid base. Just ask violinist and electronic music producer Alexis Panda, aka “PFuzz.” 

Out of her early studies at CIM, the Shaker Heights native has fashioned a stunningly diverse and rewarding career, one that has taken her all over the country and deep into any number of subjects – and attracted prominent media attention.  

“Classical music has been a great foundation,” said Panda, whose nickname derives from her stage name, “Panda Fuzzipants.” “It gave me such an advantage. I’m really grateful.”  

Panda’s CIM journey started at age 3, when she gravitated to eurhythmics. She later enrolled in the Suzuki program and took private violin lessons, studying with Marta Soderberg and James Gomez.  

In high school, Panda enrolled at Interlochen Arts Academy, where she expressed an interest in creative writing and visual art. This set the pattern for an eclectic college career, at Miami University, where “I was going to study everything I could,” Panda said, noting courses in medicine, political science, and fashion design as well as leadership roles in several student organizations.  

It was also at Miami that Panda began experimenting with electronic music, using borrowed computer software. This became her new passion and led her to Boston’s Berklee College of Music, where she pursued the art more deeply, in addition to violin studies.   

A cross-country move to San Francisco followed. It was there Panda came into her own as “Pfuzz,” mastering a critical piece of software and learning to combine her burgeoning electronic skills in performances with the violin she’d been playing all along.  

Her current home is Salt Lake City, where she moved to teach in an El Sistema program and teach students remotely all over the country.  

There, “Pfuzz” said she stands out on multiple accounts. Not only, as a mixed Brown woman with tattoos and a unique fashion sense, does she have a distinctive look. She has a distinctive sound as well. She described the music she writes now as “psychedelic and symphonic” with “prominent melodies, cinematic textures, and dance beats.”  

CIM also still figures into her work as a teacher.  

Years after the fact, Panda still thinks fondly of the immersive, close-knit community at CIM, and of how much she learned as a young child. Now, in her own teaching, she tries to provide a similar background, to give her students a foundation like the one she herself enjoyed.  

At CIM, “You have all these opportunities to play for and with your friends, and that's a huge asset,” Panda said. “It’s very important to me now that my students have a comprehensive knowledge to supplement their lessons. It gives them such an advantage.”