The cicadas are buzzing, cars are streaming down College Avenue and Chris “Moon” Saunders is perched outside of Top of the Stairs strumming away on his Yamaha guitar.
He’s been playing music downtown all week, speaking with and smiling to passersby.
Saunders is no new face to Virginia Tech’s students, however. He and his wife began working in Owens Dining Hall in January 2007.
During that time, Saunders waited on many students, including some who were killed in the tragedy of April 16.
Saunders distinctly remembers serving Seung-Hui Cho that winter and, today, still wishes he could have helped the obviously upset student.
Months later, Saunders and his wife were working when the shootings occurred.
Troubled by the thought of a student he had interacted with, Saunders was compelled to not let an opportunity to help another slip by again.
“For me, with children in college myself, it was so traumatic that I really thought that people needed a connection to someone or somebody other than the school,” Saunders said.
So, Saunders embraced his artistic roots as a musician and actor, planted himself on the streets of downtown Blacksburg and began reaching out to students with his acoustic melody.
“My point in being on the street is to actually bring music and art directly to people instead of having it be something you’ve got to go to,” Saunders said. “Being able to speak to students as they come by and touch base with them, I enjoy that interaction.”
Saunders started using theatre techniques to memorize students’ names. He has also been learning phrases in other languages to engage with members of the community.
“I speak a sort of hillbilly Arabic and Chinese and several other different languages to try and greet the kids,” Saunders said.
However, Saunders needed a name that was easy for the students to remember, too.
“A lot of people have the name Chris, and so the name Moon, or Dr. Moon, is easier for people to remember,” Saunders said.
What began as a desire to encourage the student body at Tech became “Dr. Moon’s Traveling Show.”
The title comes from Waxing Moon, a candle and incense-making company the Saunders family once operated.
“A waxing moon is actually different from a waning moon in that it’s a growing moon,” Saunders said. “That was me, always trying to grow.”
Tech is a university with more than 30,000 students, so trying to reach the entire university is no easy task. Nevertheless, Saunders is honored to accept the challenge.
Thanks to a local program, Sidewalk Stage, Blacksburg is one vast outdoor stage for Saunders and other performing artists to share their passion with the Tech community.