Sarah Sanders, who’s better known in Northeast Florida by her stage name Mama Blue, was born in Orange Park and grew up in the area. As a small child, she spent her days with her grandmother.
“Before I was school age, I would stay with my grandma while my mom worked, and she’d always be singing while she did her chores. Well, when I got old enough to do chores, singing helped them go quicker.”
Sarah grew up in a family that belonged to a strict Apostolic church during most of her childhood.
“I hadn’t seen a television or listened to the radio. I had a really sheltered life. I wore dresses and hats all the time, even in gym class. That was stressful for a kid in seventh grade.”
But after seventh grade, her family left the church. Sarah finally got to hear pop music and watch television.
“Oh, my gosh! That was amazing! I got to hear Michael Jackson and Prince and Chaka Khan and Etta James and Billie Holiday. My world just opened up.”
Sarah’s world continued to expand. She auditioned for and was accepted into Jacksonville’s Douglas Anderson School for the Arts as a singer. Sarah had never thought about singing as a profession. She just liked to sing.
“I didn’t know that it was something that I could make a living doing. I just thought, well, if there’s a school for singing, then there must something to it. I just wanted to see how far I could go with it.”
At DA, Sarah studied theater, as well as music. She acted in dramas, sang in musicals, both at DA and after high school at Jacksonville University, to which she received a vocal scholarship. Then, she left town.
“I left JU and I moved to Germany. There was a gorgeous guy there! I met him here and followed him to Europe. We married and I have two kids. It was really a great time in my life.”
Living in Germany with two small children, Sarah sang, but not as often. Her evolution into a jazz and blues singer followed the events in her life.
“The ending of my marriage and feelings that I’d never felt before. Most of my songs were happy-go-lucky songs, or rock ‘n roll songs. But then, when I grew into the blues and jazz, it was that point in my life when my marriage was ending, I was a single mom in another country and didn’t have any family over there. I was in a dark place in my life. I grew into the blues.”
About that time, her mother needed her back in Jacksonville.
“My mom got ill, and there were some things with the house that she was dealing with the city, and she needed her pit bull. So, I came back home and took care of that for here, and ended up staying.”
In the past few years, Sarah has developed her Mama Blue persona, part singer and part actress in a one-woman play, over performances to a wide range of audiences. It’s a show she’s about to take beyond Northeast Florida, including an upcoming performance at a jazz festival in Newark, N.J.
“The near future is expanding across the United States. Traveling a whole bunch, and bringing music that touches the soul, music that communicates what’s going on in our surroundings, music that brings folks together. That’s what I am, a conduit – allowing people to realize that we’re not all that different on the inside.”