The Saunders parents met in 1980 at the University of Virginia when Ray auditioned for Kim’s new show choir.
He was a band geek and had been the first chair high school tenor saxophone player in Virginia.
She was a choir nerd and had been an accompanist, arranger and music director. He got the position and, following Kim, became the second music director of Musique.
By 1986 they were married, and with the twins’ birth in 1992 completed the crew of five children.
When Trent was almost 3 he started Suzuki violin lessons (completely his idea) and was quickly joined by Heath on the cello and Blake on the piano. As the kids grew into a school-age mob they were all playing instruments and singing in church choir (that Kim directed) and the pattern of a mother-accompanist was set.
Their first collective experience was as part of the Missoula Children’s Theatre production of Johnny Appleseed (ages 4-8), but they didn’t seriously discover theater until Trent (again at age 12 leading the way) auditioned for a local community theater production of West Side Story, managing to not get cast but inspiring both Heath and Blake who ended up as Sharks.
In junior high they mostly abandoned stringed instruments and became band geeks, covering drums and tuned percussion (Blake and Claire), oboe, English horn and tenor saxophone (Heath and Alanna), acoustic and electric bass (Trent), and French horn (Claire).
Before they all graduated from high school, 78 tuitions had been paid to community theater Studio East (that’s a lot of musicals), and Kim had reclaimed her musical director history to prevent bankruptcy from tuition.
When Claire and Alanna were in high school they enticed their brothers to try their first collective musical performance as BATCH; they released an all-Heath Saunders-original EP and did several live productions including a combination of Heath’s original pop music and favorite covers.
Blake was busy at Whitman College, studying vocal performance and spending a lot of time in theatrical performances before he went on to pursue music certification and a Masters of Teaching. Claire made her way to the prestigious musical theater program at Carnegie Mellon University.
Heath, Trent and Alanna went to the University of Miami where they had several collective experiences, including “One Black Man,” a cabaret featuring songs written for black characters performed as duets by Heath and Trent, and a 2011 run at the reality TV show X-Factor, where their trio was cut prior to the live shows.
That same summer Blake and Claire performed in the Seattle Opera’s production of Porgy and Bess.
It wasn’t until 2014 that the four now-professional-actor Saunders all landed in NYC, and Blake was settling in as the choir and percussion teacher at Washington Middle School in Seattle. The NYC crew did a collective cabaret in 2015, and when Heath and Kim began the development process for Newton’s Cradle, Trent joined Heath in the cast to play brothers in the 2016 production at the New York Musical Festival where the show won six Best-Of-NYMF Awards, including Best Musical, Best Lyrics, and Best Featured Performance (Trent).