San Francisco native, Sonya Distel grew up on the Northern California music scene as daughter of celebrated jazz drummer, the late Paul Distel and bassist Carolyn Distel. Her musical training began early and by age five she had already begun studying classical piano, performing in musical theater and singing with her parents’ band. Her family exposed her to a variety of great jazz and R&B artists from Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis and John Coltrane to Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Prince.
By thirteen she had begun writing and performing her own music, mixing those early jazz, R&B, funk and pop influences for club audiences throughout California. Sonya became known for her soulful, powerhouse vocal style, musical versatility and ability to create lush harmonies and melodic arrangements. As a young adult, she continued her formal musical education and acquired a Bachelor of Arts in Music with an emphasis on Jazz and Pop from San Francisco State University. For 14 years, Sonya sang with the highly successful San Francisco cover band, The Cheeseballs. Singing such a wide range of music for so many years pushed Sonya into exploring many different facets of her voice. Her flexibility is seen in the wide variety of artists and projects she has worked with such as GRAMMY Award winner Shelbey Lynne, Hip Hop Supergroup Deltron 3030, Fishbone’s Angelo Moore, RENT: The Movie Soundtrack, SF’s Jazz Mafia and UnderCover Present’s Sly and the Family Stone. In addition to performing, Sonya is also a private voice coach and piano teacher throughout the Bay Area and enjoys spreading her love of music to her students.
Through all of her endeavors, Sonya remains a songwriter and continues writing, recording and performing her original compositions. As a vocalist her sound combines rich emotional expression, deep roots in R&B and jazz and explorations into diverse styles from gospel to Latin.