claudia zanes

Photo by Mark Mann

Haitian-American Vocalist and Music Therapist, Claudia Eliaza was not looking to add more to her already full schedule when she ended up, through a twist of fate, at a dining room sing-along in Dan Zanes Brooklyn home. This chance Labor Day meeting in 2016 put her on a path from Boston to Brooklyn via the Kennedy Center and cities throughout the U.S. and Canada. All along the way she’s been combining performance and music therapy to create a new paradigm for joyful, inclusive, participatory performance.

Born in New Hampshire and raised in Northern California, Claudia’s desire to use music compassionately led her to the music therapy degree program at Berklee College of Music in Boston in 2005 where she worked with a spectrum of individuals through the life span – from children with special needs in public and private schools, orphans and youth in Nairobi, to frail and well-elders in adult day health programs.  During that time Claudia gained a reputation for her innovative methods and creative mentoring.

In 2013, she became the Director of Music Therapy at the Community Music Center of Boston.  Besides managing a thriving urban music program, she served as the facilities clinical supervisor for Berklee Music Therapy fieldwork students. Her model of community music therapy helped redefine how music is used clinically through the Center. Drawing on her foundation in performance, she used the power of music and therapy to focus on individual’s abilities rather than disabilities while connecting different groups of people together to positively impact quality of life and creating a level playing field where all were valued equally.  

During this time Claudia’s gifts as a jazz vocalist had her touring near and far including concerts in the US, England, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, and Kenya, Africa.  She continues to appear extensively throughout Russia and has performed at a number of Jazz festivals including the Tong Jazz Festival, Jazz Fever Festival, and the Taimyr Cactus Jazz Festival.

And so, given all this, it’s no surprise that Claudia would eventually collaborate with Dan Zanes in the spirit of freewheeling, festive, community music making.  In 2016 Dan invited her to join him at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago for a Sensory Friendly family concert. The performance was a success and Eliaza suggested that if they were to continue singing together (something Dan was definitely wishing for) they should make every show Sensory Friendly, a decision that eventually led them to create Night Train 57: A Sensory Friendly Folk Opera, the first theater piece for young audiences commissioned by the Kennedy Center to be developed as Sensory Friendly from the ground up.

In 2018 Claudia and Dan were married! And now she’s Claudia Zanes! She and Dan continue to perform throughout the U.S. and Canada often with vocalist Pauline Jean. They collaborated on the songbook Dan Zanes House Party: A Family Roots Music Treasury which was published by The Quarto Group in December 2018.

When Claudia isn’t busy making music and traveling, she creates handmade luxury artisan soaps under the name CLEO. For more information please visit cleosoaps.com

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