Meet Rusanda Panfili

Meet Rusanda Panfili

Rusanda Panfili is an extraordinary violinist: In addition to an impressive classical repertoire, she is a film composer and sound artist with a knack for finding fascinating collaboration opportunities, including working with Hans Zimmer and sharing the stage with none other than Brian May and Steve Vai… She tells us a little about her career so far, and how she’s surviving the pandemic as a performing artist


[MPS]
You have worked on an extraordinary range of projects: from performing violin concertos to arranging film music, contemporary composition; playing chamber music concerts, and collaborating with choreographers and designers: Do you feel equally at home in all these contexts or do you have a stand-out passion?

[Rusanda]
I always felt that music, and generally any form of artistic expression should be free and versatile. Already as a child I had a big passion for dancing, singing, drawing and these interests never disappear so they led me to some extraordinary projects where I could actually combine them with my violin playing and music making.  I think my openness to different genres of music led me to fantastic collaborations which have enriched my classical performances as well.

[MPS]
The list of influential composers & conductors you have worked with is very impressive, perhaps the most well-known is Hans Zimmer; how was the experience of touring with such an iconic and high-profile figure?

[Rusanda]
We were rehearsing in a small space in London for 2 weeks with some of the best musicians in the world such as Guthrie Govan and Tina Guo. Hans was so focused and creative, so open to ideas and so kind. He has such a special way of working which is based mainly on emotions - music must always have the right emotion.  It felt surreal, like a dream and I absorbed each second.
My very first large arena show was in Wembley and the feeling was incredibly empowering - standing there in front of thousands of screaming and applauding people was like nothing I ever felt before on stage. Somehow it was another big confirmation that that’s the place I want to be - on the large stage.

[MPS]
You have played in a spectacular range of venues across the world, from vast arenas to iconic concert halls to renowned festivals, is there a particular gig that has stood out for you?

[Rusanda]
One of the concerts I will always remember is at the age of 13 when I had my debut with an orchestra in my hometown Chisinau. I think that’s when I felt I want to become a soloist.
The most iconic concert will forever be the one at the Starmus Festival in Zurück where I shared the stage with Brian May, Steve Vai and Hans Zimmer and where after the performance Buzz Aldrin kissed my hands. I remember walking around the airport the day after, seeing one of his pictures on a big billboard and couldn’t believe that I just experienced that.

[MPS]
Obviously, the world of performing music has been decimated by the Corona Virus pandemic, how have you survived this?

[Rusanda]
As soon as the pandemic shut down all concert activity, I saw it as an opportunity to do something I always wanted to do and never had the time for: Sound engineering!  Luckily my uncle Victor Panfilov is a professional sound engineer with great experience in Romania and gave me so much advice in the beginning on what kind of gear I need, which DAW I can use, acoustics etc. . After only 1 month or so of trying and experimenting with recordings, I got a call from Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro to work on the DreamWorks movie Boss Baby 2 - Family Business and a track recorded by me was selected to be in the movie.  Many more composers and musicians started contacting me so having that setup at home brought me more work than I could imagine during the pandemic.

[MPS]
Are you able to share anything about what you are working on right now?

[Rusanda]
My musical projects include composing the anthem for a soccer team in Spain, preparing the release of a few singles with my original music which will be a fusion between electronic and classical music, working on a few future films together with Hans Zimmer but I also have some artistic projects such as making a documentary together with my brother Stefan Panfili and teaching and coaching at the Accademia Vicino in Italy.

[MPS]
Who would be on your bucket list of people to collaborate with?

[Rusanda]
I would love to collaborate with composers such as Ludwig Göransson, John Williams or pop singers like Lady Gaga or Billy Eilish…

[MPS]
Who do you count among your greatest musical influences?

[Rusanda]
My teacher, Alexander Arenkow - he taught me everything about the violin and how to get to a level where I can express myself through the instrument, but the greatest influence in music is life itself. All my heritage, my experiences, my emotions are part of my musical identity.

[MPS]
If you could go back to any musical era what would it be?

[Rusanda]
Probably the Baroque because I think that’s when the basics of our musical understanding was created or the beginning of the 20th Century to experience the development of Jazz and Impressionism.

[MPS]
What was the first instrument you picked up?

[Rusanda]
It was actually the violin. My mom played violin, never pursued a career with music but kept playing at home once in a while so one day I just started imitating her which led to me also starting with violin around age 6.

[MPS]
Tell us about your Strymon pedals, how do you incorporate them into your workflow?

[Rusanda]
Starting to work with pedals, especially for film music, has opened an incredible new door for me to musical expression. Besides playing several types of bowed string instruments I now also play e-bass, synthesisers and several percussive instruments so having those pedals is almost a must. Being a sound freak I can easily lose track of time when I work with these pedals. I now have endless possibilities of creating sounds and textures which fascinates me. I find it very inspiring to work with Nightsky and Timeline for example - it often brings me to places I didn’t even know I could get to without them. Also love how my e-violin or e-bass sound improves with Compadre and the expressive drive through Riverside.

[MPS]
What other music technologies to you like to work with?

[Rusanda]
Analog Synthesizers Like the Moog One, Deckard’s Dream but also various plugins and music libraries are a great source of inspiration.

[MPS]
Is there anything you have parted with that you really miss?

[Rusanda]
I used to play on an Italian Violin by Lorenzo Storioni for 10 Years - when I finished my University studies I had to give it back and the separation from that instrument was quite painful, but I was grateful to play on such an amazing violin.  Now I am very lucky to play a G.P.Maggini violin from Brescia made in 1610 which was loaned to me by an Austrian Foundation.

[MPS]
Can you think of anything that really changed things for you?

[Rusanda]
In terms of gear it was definitely when I had my studio setup ready for recording. I started composing and arranging much more, and it led me to wanting to play and understand electronic instruments such as the synthesiser which is probably the instrument which changed the way I see music the most.

[MPS]
Is there any advice you can offer to people starting out on their musical journeys?

[Rusanda]
Don’t forget to feed your soul with knowledge of all kind.
Stay hungry and creative.
Remember that failing is probably the best learning process.
Forget about envy -  You gain so much more when you learn how to appreciate your colleagues.

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