Sam Belton is a native of Milwaukee, having earned his bachelor’s degree in music performance from the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and his teaching certification in music education from Alverno College. While teaching in the Milwaukee Public School system, he went on to receive a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Lesley College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Belton has been an educator for over 40 years, and a jazz lover since and a jazz musician for even longer.
Milestones of Sam’s Life
Belton began studying percussion at the age of eight years old in elementary school at. Phillips in Milwaukee.
Belton attended Rufus King High School and participated in the school’s marching band and orchestra. He played in local bands including “The Show Stoppers” and “Our Fathers Children”.
After graduating in January, 1970, Belton started touring throughout the Midwest with R & B pickups – the Esquires.
In 1971, he came off the road and began studying percussion with late Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra timpanist Tele Sisb and entered college at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. He earned a bachelor’s degree in music and played with the late, Tony King where he played in Elmhurst and Notre Dame.
Belton served as a teacher at the Conservatory, and as a part of the faculty jazz ensemble. He performed with some of Milwaukee’s best musicians Manty Ellis, Berkeley Fudge, Jack Grassel, and Buddy Montgomery. Working with the late Buddy Montgomery was one of the most influential times in his life. He helped him on stage and that was a seed that has continued to sprout in Belton’s life and influenced his career as a professional musician.
In 1973, a meeting with the late Dizzy Gillespie encouraged Belton to continue his musical journey.
In 1974, having met the legendary jazz drummer Alvin Jones, jazz pianist Milt Jackson, and Bobby Hutchinson, Belton was influenced to keep his dream of becoming a professional musician alive. He had an incredible gift!
Still in 1974 Belton had to go to New York City where he had the opportunity to sit in with jazz legend Pharaoh Sanders playing drums.
In 1975, he invested in his spiritual journey by studying the word of God.
In 1976, Belton began working in the church, training and playing Gospel music. He became an ordained Elder in the church in 1980.
In 1988, Belton went back to college and was invested in K-12 music education. Music, choral and instrumental music were his specialties and in 1990 he began teaching in MPS as a music specialist. He spent time at several MPS schools where he lead award winning groups of students and developed a drum line at
Washington HS. He was blessed to participate in a music forum in Rome, Italy in 1991.
In 1993, he received a master’s degree in Curriculum and Institution from Leslie College in Cambridge.
In the early 1990s, Belton wrote the first rap song performed by a mass chorus of students in the annual MPS music festival. He co-developed a MPS integrated music writing curriculum on the music of Jamaica with other educators.
In 1994, he launched his ministry, Spirit of Truth Worship Center with his wife, Lazonnie Belton. He began missionary travel to Africa from 1995 – 2018 with trips to Uganda, Ethiopia, Malawi, Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Kenya, and South Africa.
In 2001, in his first trip to Ethiopia, he learned that this country was the birthplace of coffee. Belton also retired from MPS this year.
In 2004, City Net Jazz Café was launched at its first location on 72nd & Burleigh. From there, we opened four locations including, 306 E. Wisconsin Ave. (currently operating), Milwaukee County Courthouse, Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division, and Rite Hite YMCA.
We launched Abyssinnia Coffee Roasters as our official roasting division in 2015.
In 2021 – Sam’s Place opens for business.