Samuel Augustus Newsome was born on April 28, 1965 in Salibury, MD. He is the youngest of three boys. He began playing music at 12 years old when his family relocated to Hampton, VA. By the time he was 15 years old he began playing professionally around town with local R & B bands along with his high school classmate bassist James Genus. It was during high school that he became serious about studying jazz and began taking lessons after school with saxophonist Steve Wilson. It was Steve who introduced him to recordings of jazz legends such as Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Sonny Rollins.
In 1983, after graduating high school, Sam received the Kool Jazz Festival scholarship to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass. where he studied saxophone with Billy Pierce, Andy McGhee and George Garzone; and composition with Hal Crook, Fred Lipsius, and Herb Pomeroy. It was there that he also began long time relationships with fellow classmates Danilo Perez, Javon Jackson, Cyrus Chestnut, Mark Whitfield, Antonio Hart, Mark Turner, and many others.
Soon after graduation, Sam received news from pianist Donald Brown (who was also one of his instructors at Berklee) that trumpeter Donald Byrd was looking for a young tenor player to join his band. So that summer, along with Donald Brown, bassist Ron McWhorter, and drummer Billy Kilson, Sam toured with Byrd's quintet, playing major clubs and festivals throughout the U.S. and Europe.