Anna Sun on Anna Sun

“I remember this really distinctly,” Professor Anna Sun said, telling me about how she first heard about the song named after her. “Three summers ago, I got an e-mail from a student I didn’t know.”
Adam Reifsnyder ’08 had contacted Sun on behalf of Walk the Moon, asking permission to use her name in a song. The request came unexpectedly to the beloved professor who didn’t know any of the founding members including Reifsnyder, Nick Petricca ‘09, Adrian Galvin ‘12 or Nick Lerangis ’09.
She showed Reifsnyder’s e-mail to her husband, Professor Yang Xiao, and asked him if he knew about Walk the Moon. It turned out that he had had two of the members of the band as students in his philosophy classes.

“I realized that I must have run into members of the band on campus when I was with Professor Xiao,” Sun said. “I actually didn’t remember their names, but I must have seen them on campus.”
Upon listening to the song, Sun immediately liked it and asked Reifsnyder to send her the lyrics so that she could make sure she knew what it was about.

“The song is about Kenyon life. It has nothing to do with me, so I thought ‘sure, use my name for the chorus,’” she said. “I was honored that they used my name, but then I forgot about it.”

For a while, she felt like the song had disappeared. Though Walk the Moon was working hard to publicize their music, they had trouble establishing themselves on a national level. That all changed on April 5, 2012.
“The surprise really came when they were on [Late Night with Jimmy Fallon],” she said. “I had friends writing to me asking, ‘is that a Kenyon band? Is that your name?’ I’m very, very happy for them, but I have to keep explaining to people that the song is not about me at all. They borrowed my name for the chorus and I’m very honored, but it really has nothing to do with me.”

Along with getting the opportunity to perform on national television, Walk the Moon also did a rendition of “Anna Sun” with the PS22 Chorus, which Sun says is her favorite version of the song. (You can check it out here).

“For me it’s the most wonderful version,” she said. “It just warmed my heart hearing that song sung by that great group of kids.”

Despite hearing her name in such a special context, Sun is very modest as she talks about the song’s increasing popularity.

“It’s surreal,” she said, “you hear ‘Anna Sun, Anna Sun,’ but since the song is not about me, I don’t have an egotistic attachment to it. When I hear “Anna Sun,” I hear it as a Kenyon song.”

In fact, she has a theory about why her name was used. “My name is Anna Sun. Their band is Walk the Moon. So I think there must have been a subconscious connection when they wrote the song.”
The singsong quality of Sun’s name is another likely reason it was chosen for the title of the band’s biggest hit to date. Until she was naturalized as an American citizen, though, Sun didn’t go by Anna. Instead, she used her Chinese names, which are now her middle names.

“Chinese names always have meanings,” Sun said. “My first middle name [Xiao] means ‘smile’ and my second middle name [Dong] means ‘winter.’ So it’s a ‘smiling winter.’ It comes from a line of classical poetry.”

The idyllic image that name provokes suits her cheerful and encouraging personality—a personality that makes Sun deserving of a song that bears her name, whether or not she is truly its subject. And that’s why knowing Anna Sun makes knowing “Anna Sun” even more special.

photo credits: ihopeyourearsbleed.com
photo of Anna Sun: kenyon.edu