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Teen Face: Making her way with a song in her heart

Standing before an audience and baring her soul is one of the most comfortable places for Casa Grande High School freshman Elizabeth Boaz.

Singer-songwriter Boaz, 13, said she can’t imagine life without her guitar, her voice and the songs she writes.

“I wouldn’t be able to express myself,” without music, said Boaz after a recent performance.

Boaz had just sung and strummed three pop ballads at Sebastopol’s Coffee Catz. She’s been performing her own songs at the cafe’s Monday open mic nights for nearly two years.

“I love to look at the audience, that’s how I connect, that’s what gets me through a performance,” Boaz said.

Nearly every week this summer she sang for residents at Sunrise Senior Living in Petaluma.

Activity and volunteer coordinator Belvia Robbins said that the residents adore her. Boaz doesn’t just sing for them, she “talks to the residents and has an interactive discussion with them,” Robbins said.

“We’re so impressed with her, her maturity for such a young person, she’s just great,” Robbins said.

Music is a family affair at the Boaz home.

Her father, Chip Boaz, teaches music at Sir Francis Drake High School and was a professional bass player with salsa and Latin jazz bands in San Francisco.

He met Boaz’s mother, Karen, who plays piano and vibes, through music circles.

All three sing as a family, with younger sisters Maryanne, 11, and Julia, 8.

Although Boaz found scribbled lyrics in notebooks from when she was 8 years old, she said her songwriting began coming together after she began studying guitar at age 11.

At Casa Grande, Boaz takes a two-hour music class every other day. She stays after school three days a week to sing with an a cappella group. Add to that, guitar and voice lessons and the hours she’s logged penning songs in her room.

“This is my sport,” Boaz said.

Ever since her first performance at the Petaluma Arts Center about two years ago, Boaz has been performing nonstop at venues across the North Bay, from the Lagunitas Brewing Co, and Aqus Cafe on H Street in Petaluma to Yet Wah restaurant in San Rafael and school events.

At the Sebastopol cafe, her parents beamed as Boaz charmed coffee-sipping patrons seated at tables.

“Her lyrics are really honest,” Chip Boaz said of his daughter. “A big piece of artistry is being willing to share. I think it’s remarkable to see someone who is 13 being so willing to give themselves.”

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.

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