Composer Anya Pelevina Brings Creative Magic & Grace Under Pressure to the Studio

Composer Anya Pelevina Brings Creative Magic & Grace Under Pressure to the Studio

Composer Anya Pelevina Brings Creative Magic & Grace Under Pressure to the Studio

“I find inspiration all around me. I try to make my music representative of myself and my generation. I love places where most people don't give a second glance. But my inspiration also comes from Hollywood composers—I love to watch them doing things that one day I hope to have the opportunity to do.”

Indeed, people already say Anya Pelevina’s music compositions have the power and seduction of legendary composers like Hans Zimmer (Gladiator) and Vangelis (Blade Runner). And, Russian-born and trained classical pianist Pelevina admits she was influenced by Oscar-winner Zimmer throughout her career, explaining, “Since my early teens I was studying Zimmer’s style and I am happy to hear that it’s recognized by my listeners.”

But in her music you can also hear the soul of Russia.

Now LA-based Pelevina wrote original music for Homesick which was an Official Selection at New York Shorts, El Paso, at the Texas Short film festivals and also at Femme Frontera Filmmaker Showcase. And, she sees the power of music in the overall storytelling process, suggesting, “Music is an essential tool in storytelling because it can deepen its emotional impact, and also help to immerse the audience in the narrative, and connect them to the story and its characters.”


Ambitious and talented Anya Pelevina enthuses about what she brings to the table which is her ability to concoct her own musical magic—to produce solutions in high-pressure situations like on films when they have instant deadlines and last-second changes.


Here she talks about her early musical influences and her Russian soul, her affection for Hollywood composers and why she emulates them, how she goes about composing film music, and what’s next.


Explain the Importance of Being Surrounded by Music Growing up in Russia?

Growing up with my musical Mom Irina had a significant advantage in my musical development. She played different types of music in our home, we attended concerts and musical events, and she inspired me to explore different genres of music. She instilled in me the love for music and helped me to identify my musical interests. She also provided a piano in our house and she always encouraged me to always practice. Getting me music lessons when I was only six, helped me to develop my musical skills. She then supported me by attending my performances and providing constructive feedback. She taught me music theory and I was always on top of my class with a strong foundation in music. I was sent to music theory competitions every year and I would always take 1st or 2nd place and it kept me very motivated to move on. Of course, early on, I listened to a lot of Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Khachaturian, Prokofiev and Borodin. And now, among contemporary composers I really enjoy listening to John Powell, James Newton Howard, Lorne Balfe, and Hans Zimmer, of course.

Zimmer Once Said, “If Somebody Tells You a Rule, Break it. That's the Only Thing to Move Things Forward.” Which Movies Do You Admire of His and What Did You Learn From Working with his Company?

My affection for Zimmer’s soundtracks started back when I was six and I watched The Lion King for the first time. Back then, all I remember is that I liked the music and the songs from the movie. I didn’t even know that such a profession as a film composer existed. Then when I was twelve my father took me to the movie theatre for the first time. We watched Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and the movie made a big impression on me. I played the main theme on the piano non-stop when we got back home. After a while we got a videocassette with Gladiator and I watched it at least ten times because I liked the music. Then my parents got me my first computer and I went on the internet to look up all these movies that I liked and discovered that all of them were scored by Hans Zimmer. I looked up more music that he made and created a whole playlist of his soundtracks that I played on my piano in my leisure time. It was then I realized that I wanted to be a film composer and create music like this. As for my experience working at his Remote Control Productions, people there work magic and create beautiful music in the most unique way. This is something that you cannot learn at school or on the internet, so I am very grateful to have had this experience with them.

Was Music Always Going to be a Career, Perhaps as a Classical Piano Performer?

I didn’t initially see music as a career when I was back in Russia. It was more of a hobby to me. I wanted to go to business school and take languages, so I studied Public Relations in Moscow University. I took English, French, and German classes and really enjoyed studying them. When I graduated, I wanted to travel, so I started working for airlines and I flew around the world for four years. I visited sixty countries in total. But the dream to be a film composer stayed with me for all these years. When I turned twenty-five, I realized it was now or never. I applied to the prestigious Berklee College, got in and then a new chapter of my life began.

Why Did Berklee Professor Richard Davis Talk about your Russian Soul?

When writing the main theme for a short movie animation, I played my favorite Russian folk tunes on the piano. My favorite is “Polovtsian Dances” from Prince Igor by Russian composer Borodin. I kept playing the theme and moved on to my own variations of it. Then it all became an improvisation in the same key and mode and I found the main theme for the character that I had been writing for. When I presented the melody to my teacher, he said that it sounded “very Russian” and followed with the statement: “I can hear your Russian soul through your music.” For me, it was the best compliment I’ve ever had on my composition.

How Do You Actually Work, on a Combination of Piano and Computer?

It depends on the project. If we have a budget, we hire live musicians, but a whole orchestra would cost a lot of money that young composers cannot afford. Luckily, technology developed so well that you can now write everything on the laptop. Composers call it “in the box.” Orchestral sample libraries sound so real, that only a professional ear can tell the difference. I grew up playing piano. But I also took some guitar and drum lessons.

What Do You Take from the Likes of Star Music Composers like John Powell, James Newton Howard and Lorne Balfe?

Powell has earned both a Grammy and Emmy Award, along with nine Oscar nominations. Why? For example, he composed for the wonderful How to Train Your Dragon whose score has epic and emotional melodies that enhance the movie-watching experience. The music effectively captures the adventurous and magical atmosphere of the film, drawing us into the world of dragons and Vikings. Additionally, the soundtrack features a blend of orchestral arrangements and folk-inspired themes, creating a unique and captivating musical tapestry. The music by James Newton Howard for dystopian movie, The Hunger Games, features a combination of intense, dramatic scores, and hauntingly beautiful melodies. The music's ability to capture the tension, courage, and resilience portrayed in the film's narrative greatly contributes to its appeal. And, overall, the music by Lorne Balfe for His Dark Materials resonates with me by capturing the essence of the story, elevating the viewing experience, and evoking a sense of awe and enchantment. My objective is to emulate these award-winning musical storytellers, and my ultimate goal is to inspire people with my music.


Check out Anya Apelevina’s website, and her IMDb, Facebook and Instagram pages. Also, check out her contribution to Homesick, and her original tune Rise (on Apple Music, iTunes, Spotify, Deezer).

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  • Josh Murray

    Fascinating read. Anya's ability to blend her Russian soul with the influences of Hollywood composers like Hans Zimmer is evident in her captivating compositions. It's fascinating to see how her early exposure to diverse genres and her passion for music nurtured her talent.

  • Ashley Collie

    In reply to: Josh Murray

    Thanks for taking time to read, Josh. Are you a musician? Cheers

  • Lindsay Hudson

    Hans Zimmer has undoubtedly left a lasting impact on Anya Pelevina's musical career. From the moment she discovered his soundtracks as a child, she knew she wanted to become a film composer. Her experience working at Zimmer's Remote Control Productions must have been invaluable, allowing her to witness the magic and creativity that goes into crafting beautiful music.

  • Ashley Collie

    In reply to: Lindsay Hudson

    Cheers, Lindsay. Nice observations. Do you play music or have aspirations in the entertainment biz?

  • Michelle K

    It's intriguing to learn about Anya's journey from considering music as a hobby to making it her career. Her decision to pursue her dream of becoming a film composer at Berklee College demonstrates her dedication and determination. Sometimes, our true calling finds us later in life, and Anya's story is a testament to the importance of following one's passion.

  • Ashley Collie

    In reply to: Michelle K

    Thanks for commenting, Michelle, did you recently find your own muse/path?

  • Patrick Stott

    Anya Pelevina's ability to infuse her compositions with her Russian soul is a testament to her deep connection with her cultural roots. It's wonderful to hear that her teacher at Berklee College recognized this unique quality in her music. The blending of traditional Russian folk tunes with her own variations showcases her creativity and artistry.

  • Ashley Collie

    In reply to: Patrick Stott

    Thanks for checking in, Patrick. Great observations and thanks for comments. Anya has talent, passion and beauty. Cheers

  • Ian Jefferis

    The combination of piano and computer technology has opened up new possibilities for composers like Anya Pelevina. It's impressive how she utilizes modern tools, such as orchestral sample libraries, to create rich and realistic soundscapes. This highlights the power of technology in enabling aspiring composers to bring their musical visions to life.

  • Ashley Collie

    In reply to: Ian Jefferis

    Thanks, Ian. Do you compose, too, and are you part of the industry or just a music lover?

  • Tristan Gibbs

    Anya's admiration for composers like John Powell, James Newton Howard, and Lorne Balfe speaks to her dedication to her craft. These renowned composers have made significant contributions to the world of film music, and Anya strives to follow in their footsteps. Her goal of inspiring people through her music is both ambitious and admirable, and I have no doubt that she has the talent to achieve it.

  • Ashley Collie

    In reply to: Tristan Gibbs

    Yeah, she's an authentic composer and person. Do you play, too, Tristan?

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Ashley Jude Collie

Entertainment Expert

Ashley is an award-winning journalist/author/blogger who has written for Playboy, Toronto Star, Movie Entertainment, Sports Illustrated, Maclean's and others. He's interviewed various "leaders" in their fields, including: Oscar winners (Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Lawrence, Alicia Vikander, Jane Fonda, Mira Sorvino, Geena Davis, Anthony Hopkins); Grammy winners (Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Ice Cube, Pete Townshend); MVPs in sports (Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Wayne Gretzky, Kobe Bryant); and, business leaders (Amazon's Jeff Bezos). He has an upcoming novel, REJEX, coming out on Pulp Hero Press. And he has written several episodic TV shows, appeared on CNN, and blogged for Mademan, Medium, GritDaily and HuffPost.

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