Joseph Anthony Sanders was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1984. Raised with the sound of the church, he showed interest at an early age in the bass. In middle school, since there was only a classical program, Sanders switched from electric to double bass. Upon receiving a scholarship for inner-city youth, he was entitled to study for five years with Catherine McGinn, an accomplished bassist in the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Curious about other forms, he attended his first jazz session and it was enough to hook him. He discovered new influences that would play a vital role in his development –Charles Mingus, Paul Chambers, and Ray Brown.
In high school, he was a part of the Grammy Band, composed of the top high school jazz students in the country. He caught the attention of the director of the Dave Brubeck Institute, who was looking for young musicians for the program's inauguration. Soon after, Sanders headed west to Stockton, California. During his two years at Brubeck, he studied with Christian McBride and many other jazz masters. Sanders also had many performing opportunities while at the institute including a performance with Brubeck at the 2004 IAJE jazz convention.
Sanders moved to New York and immersed himself in the city's vibrant jazz scene, sharing the bandstand with a wide range of musicians. After a year, he auditioned for the Thelonious Monk Institute under the supervision of Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and Terence Blanchard. Accepted, he flew back west, this time to Los Angeles, and attended the two-year program. Under the tutelage of John Clayton and Bob Hurst, he performed in Vietnam and India with Shorter and Hancock. While in school, he toured with the Roy Hargrove Quintet in North America and Europe.
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