Award winning singer and entertainer Sabrina de Boer will play The Windjammer Feb. 4 with local party band DysFUNKTion. | Photo by Ruta Smith

Vocalist Sabrina de Boer was first drawn to music by the sense of connection that it fosters. Family jam sessions were a staple in her home growing up in Newport News, Va. Her music-loving dad and bluegrass-playing grandparents helped her see how sharing creative space was at the heart of making music. 

“A whole bunch of people [would] come over to my house and sit in the living room and they were just playing for hours,” she said. “It was almost like church — [but] there was no religion tied to it except for the religion of music. And I was singing and my grandmother was singing. [We were] being a part of a collective.” 

That feeling of community was compelling, and she wanted to continue to forge it. De Boer began singing with the Virginia Opera in Norfolk when she was 9 years old, and then grew enamored with theater. 

“Even when I was that young, I was still so aware and present in the fact that I was a part of a larger delivery of a show — part of something bigger than me,” she said.

Straight out of college, de Boer fulfilled her dream of being on stage, performing for several years on Holland America Line cruise ships. During a stint performing for Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va., she was recognized for her stellar talent with an IAAPA attractions industry award for Best Performer Worldwide in 2018. She then went on to direct vocals for Busch Gardens’ live music productions.

During the Covid-19 shutdown in 2020, de Boer was separated for seven months from her husband, who was a deputy captain for Virgin Voyages cruise ships. 

“I had a lot of time to reflect on what was important to me and my partner,” she said. 

The couple decided to make a change and start fresh somewhere to construct a life that worked for both of them. They packed their bags for Charleston in September 2020.

“When we came to check out the scene, the first thing that I saw was that there was music everywhere,” de Boer said. To her, it seemed like local restaurants and breweries — even the city itself — were very intentional about hosting live music. 

A month or two after the move, de Boer decided to put an ad on Craigslist for a guitar player she could collaborate with as a fun creative outlet. A keys player named Tom DeMille messaged back and told her he was looking for a singer. That connection led to the assembly of funk outfit DysFUNKtion, a local party band that’s become known over the past two years for its bluesy yet soulful high energy.

In addition to directing shows for Busch Gardens in Virginia and The Lost Colony performing arts theater in North Carolina, de Boer also established her own vocal coaching service called The Box last fall. 

“I want people to feel like they can come to a space and really learn how to use their voice for what they’re trying to do and get guidance,” she said. 

Though DysFUNKTion mostly performs covers, the artists are beginning to delve into original songwriting. The band currently consists of de Boer on vocals and bongos, DeMille on keys and harmonica, Matt Job on drums, Adam Barely on guitar and Will Davenport on bass.

“The best part about my band members is that these individuals are people who do music strictly as a passion,” she said. The five-piece will play The Windjammer Feb. 4. 

De Boer said musicians in Charleston seem to be more open to experimenting with other artists and welcoming newcomers — but that’s not to say it’s been easy. 

“As a female I have to have a lot of conviction to go out on my own in the community to find my people. And it can be a little bit scary,” she said. 

One organization that has made the scene feel friendlier is Sisters in Song (SIS), a local group that brings women in the music industry together to provide support and community.

“I went to my first meeting within this last month, and I was blown away at what they were doing, and the diverse projects that these women were tackling within the industry,” de Boer said. 

Her creativity is stoked by working on multiple projects, and she said the women in SIS showed her that she doesn’t need to narrow her creative vision to be successful. 

“As an artist, I don’t like to fall into a category,” she said. “I just want to use the platform as an expression and give that platform to others.”

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