Sandra "SaNa" Foster - Bandleader, Bassist, Vocalist
This is the story of Sandra "SaNa" Foster's journey into the world of entertainment. Her trip began in 1954, at age 6, when she was in the first grade. SaNa moved from the small ore mining town of Bessemer, Alabama, to the Laurel Home 'Projects' in Cincinnati, Ohio where she attended Washburn Elementary School. SaNa realized early on that she could not keep up with the fast paced city folk with her southern drawl and small town attitude.
Fortunately, the apartment building she moved into housed a library in the basement. What better way to learn about where she was and what she could become. Her worldview expanded as she read books on growing up and liking it, explored the London Bridge, or discovered the warm, sandy beaches of foreign shores.
Being book smart gave her an upper hand when she needed to be street smart. Instead of fighting, she mediated. Instead of cursing, she spoke words her peers never heard. Instead of stealing, she bartered. As she gained respect as a scholar, her teachers, family, and peers chose her to lead. SaNa's leadership skills were enhanced by the love and encouragement of her seven brothers. According to SaNa, "Growing up with brothers helped me to balance my male/female character traits. From the male side I learned to be independent and rise to the top of the hierarchy. From the female side I learned to be interdependent and work collectively. I give eternal thanks for the lessons I learned from my brothers Norman, Alvin, Terry, Thomas, Dennis, Oscar and Carnis. With their backup, I never had to worry about getting into fights, or being picked on by other kids. I felt safe to explore my environment and develop my own personal identity."
Part of SaNa's personal identity is her ability to perform in front of a crowd. Her first performance was in the fourth grade when she sang in the choir at Washburn Elementary School. Later, she became a cheerleader at Samuel Ach Jr. High School. While attending Samuel Ach, SaNa had to choose between enrolling in home economics or the orchestra. She chose to play the violin in the orchestra. SaNa continued cheerleading and orchestra at Robert A. Taft High School where she also enrolled in the choir. The Choir Director issued SaNa an ultimatum to either quit cheerleading or quit the choir. He felt that cheerleading would harm her voice. SaNa quit the choir.
In her freshman and junior years at Taft High School, SaNa played in the orchestra for the School's Annual 'Taft Capades'. In her senior year, SaNa was selected to dance in, and help choreograph the 'Taft Capades'. That's when the Orchestra Director gave her an ultimatum to either quit the orchestra or quit the dance troop. He did not think she would be able to balance both of the assignments. So, she quit the orchestra. According to SaNa, "I assumed that was the end of my music career. Although I sang in the choir in elementary school, and played in the orchestra in junior high and high school, I never learned how to read music. I would get the music teacher or one of my peers to play or hum the tune. Then I would find the notes. As I look back, I probably was out of tune a lot." SaNa did not return to music until 31 years later.
SaNa enrolled in Central State University from 1966 to 1971. She majored in Health, Physical Education and Recreation. The closest she got to music was serving as Activities Chair for the Student Government Association. As Chair, she was responsible for booking entertainment. Her most memorable booking was Nina Simone. SaNa recalls that "Nina was very picky about the amenities in her dressing room. I remember there was a specific brand of gin she wanted. We had to check all over town to get it because Nina would not go on without it." SaNa also recalls the time they booked the Funkadelics at Central State. She took her baby brother, Oscar D. It was his first time attending a concert. She will always remember the look of joy on his face when she took him back stage to meet the superstars.
In 1970, SaNa gave birth to her only child, Kenyatta Ali Tate. In 1971, she graduated from Central State University. Upon graduation, SaNa worked as a 9th grade science teacher at Cornel White Junior High School, and as a Protective Service worker for the Department of Social Services in Dayton, Ohio. She moved to Cleveland, Ohio in 1973 where she served as an intake worker for Community Action Against Addiction; a methadone maintenance program. In 1977 SaNa moved to Wisconsin and enrolled at The University of Wisconsin-Madison. She earned a MSSW in 1979 and a Ph.D. in Social Welfare in 1984. After graduating, SaNa taught in Schools of Social Work at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas from 1984-85; Grambling State University in Louisiana from 1985-87; University of Southern Mississippi in Hattisburg from 1987-1991; Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N. Carolina from 1991-97. She has been employed at The Whitney M. Young, Jr., School of Social Work at Clark Atlanta University since 1994. She is an Associate Professor.
As a professor at Clark Atlanta, SaNa would take the summers off to travel or continue her education. In the summer of 1997, SaNa decided to learn Spanish. When she realized that she would have to spend most of her summer in a classroom, she changed her mind. So, she bought a bass guitar. SaNa says, "Learning to play the bass felt as awkward as my move to the big city. I realized that I could not keep up with the fast paced life of musicians who had been gigging for years. So, I did what came naturally; I bought and read books. I learned how to become a bassist. I bartered for lessons and gear. I mediated disputes between musicians. I spoke words of encouragement. As I gained respect as a bassist, musicians chose me to lead. A year later, at age 50, I started the SaNa Band. Interestingly, I still cannot read music. I don't know why I can't pick it up. For some reason, my brain just won't stay focused. Put some sheet music in front of me to sight read and my eyes will stray. But, if you give me a couple of days, I'll eventually get it. Being a teacher helps me understand that people learn in different ways. I guess I'm a hands-on type learner."
In 1999 the SaNa Band won the Blues Band Search at Rooster's in Atlanta GA. The Band opened for Clarence Carter at the 1999 Alabama Blues Lovers Festival in Birmingham. A year later, in 2000, engineers Nick Arroyo and Denny Meeker helped SaNa record her first CD "Live at SaNa's". In 2001, Nick and Denny engineered SaNa's second CD "Live at Paris on Ponce." In 2003, Gene Kreeft, President of the Atlanta Blues Society, and Mark Alestra engineered SaNa's third CD, "Black Cat Blues".
SaNa is featured in The Atlanta Journal Constitution in February 24, 2000, and again on September 6 2001; the Clark Atlanta University Magazine in Spring 2001; the Bass Player Magazine in September 2001; and, pictured with the late, Mr. Frank Edwards, in the Atlanta Blues Society Magazine in February 2001. The SaNa Band also performed on the Good Morning Atlanta TV Show in 2002.
The SaNa Band has performed in the Greater Atlanta Area at The Rib Shack Blues Cafe, The Jungle Room, The Blue Pig in Woodstock, Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College, Morehouse College, Georgia State University, The Trolley Barn, Fat Matt's Rib Shack, Poppers, Darwins, Healthful Essence Restaurant, Front Page News, The Atlanta Blues Society Jam at Fuzzy's, Daddy D'z, The Mellow Mushroom, Pal's Lounge, The Comfort Inn, The Atrium, Sweet Melissa's, Waterworks Park, Jake's Toad House, One Star Ranch, Blue Moon Pizza, Woodruff Park, Penrose, Paris on Ponce, High Museum, Sahara Ethiopian Restaurant, Lonesome Dove Ranch, Darnel Senior Day Center, Mills Senior Day Center, Bowden Senior Day Center, H.J.C. Bowden Senior Multipurpose Facility, Tri-Tech Community College in SC, Liz and Lee's Live, Beal Street Pub, Copeland's, Blues in the Alley, the Derby, Houcks, StudioPlex, Maddy's, The Derby, Two Urban Licks, Blind Willies, Docs, the Cellar, Academe of the Oaks, 5th Street Ribs & Blues, Manny's, Chardonnay Blues & Jazz, Nyght Train, American Legion, and a host of private parties.
The SaNa Band has performed at the Auburn Street Festival, Black Arts Festival, Atlanta Jazz Festival, Underground Atlanta Heritage Arts Festival, Reynoldstown Wheelbarrow Festival, Dekalb Down Home Blues Festival, Greater Atlanta Blues Festival, WRFG Radio Station's Birthday Party and Blues Barbeque, The City of Atlanta Arts Program, Auburn Avenue Spring and Garden Show, Link Juneteenth Festival, Hammond's House Galleries Juneteenth Festival, Darwins Back Porch Blues Festival, Centennial Park Wind Down Wednesday, and the Montreux Atlanta Music Festival.
SaNa has played with various bands and prominent performers including opening for the Uppity Blues Women and Buckwheat Zydeco with Deacon Bluz at the Variety Playhouse, and playing with the Holy Smoke Band at Blind Willie's. SaNa has performed with Tony Cook and the Trunk of Funk, Zoom and Da Flash, Zip Code, Frankie Lee and the Native Sons, Chick Willis, Theotis Ealey, Larry Griffith, Deacon Bluz and the Holy Smoke Band, Beverly Guitar Watson, Willie Hill, Richardine Holmes, Clyde Strozier, The TEE Band, Chicago Joe, Sammy Blue, Little Joe Burton, Kindle Williams Sr., and James Armstrong.
The SaNa Band is a dance band. Their priority is to get you dancing and having a good time. Their song list includes blues, oldies, and jazz. The SaNa Band is "On Time, On Key, and On the One!"