7 Questions with the Creators of Night Train 57: A Sensory-Friendly Folk Opera

Night Train 57 isn’t just a musical performance; it’s an out-of-this-world sensory experience.

Grammy winner Dan Zanes, vocalist and instrumentalist Claudia Eliaza, and percussionist Yuriana Sobrino come together for an interactive folk opera across the stars at the Kennedy Center October 6-8. Night Train 57 merges friendship, community, and folk opera to create an unforgettable performance for all ages and sensory levels. Together, Zanes, Eliaza, and Sobrino create a magical and unique experience for kids and families based off of their love for music and culture. But don’t just take our word for it — hear from the artists themselves:

What do you carry with you every day?

Dan Zanes: A guitar pick.

Claudia Eliaza: Headphones, my new engagement ring, and these days a pair of sunglasses.

Yuriana Sobrino: A book, headphones and a small percussion toy.

What story or stories have you yet to tell via music?

Zanes: I’d like to tell some stories about how I’m learning to love everyone. Sometimes I forget to do this so songs might help me to stay of the path.

Eliaza: The story about how following your heart will always lead you to where you’re meant to be. And that light and fear cannot occupy the same space. So let’s reach across our communities and boarders to spread as much love to one another as we can.

Sobrino: Stories of growing up in Mexico.

What is the first song you learned how to play on your favorite instrument?

Zanes: When I was 8 years old I learned the song “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” on a guitar that my mother had once tried to play. She didn’t get very far with it so she gave it to me.

Eliaza: The first song that comes to mind is “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands” on piano.

Sobrino: “Las Mañanitas” The Mexican Happy Birthday song

What artist or artist would you say has inspired or influenced you the most? They could be musicians, painters, writers, any artist.

Zanes: That’s an easy question to answer! My main man is Lead Belly, an African-American folk singer known as the King of the 12-String Guitar.

Eliaza: I’m a lover of jazz and gospel music. I’d say some of my biggest inspirations have been Shirley Caesar, Kirk Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Nina Simone, Indigo Girls, Erykah Badu, India Arie, Sweet Honey in the Rock… The list goes on and on and on….

Sobrino: Mercedes Sosa a folk singer from Argentina. Jazz drummer Paul Motian. Jiddu Krishnamurti an Indian Philosopher an writer.

What is one thing you have kept from your childhood?

Zanes: A sense of humor, and my fun nose.

Eliaza: I’ve kept a photo of my grandmother Feniza.

Sobrino: A tiny pencil that I used to have when I was a kid.

If you were creating time capsules that were to be opened in one hundred years, what album would you place in yours?

Zanes: I’d put in an album called Rocket Ship Beach. It’s the first family record that I made with my friends and neighbors.

Eliaza: As a child I remember my mom and dad would get cassette tapes from our Haitian relatives back in Haiti. They would fill both side A and B with conversation in Haitian Creole and my parents would in turn respond. Sometimes my cousins would record a special voice message specifically for my brother and I. It would be nice to hear those tapes now. I don’t think I fully appreciated them back when I was younger. But how cool would it be to hear the voices of my grandparents who aren’t with us anymore?

Sobrino: A recording of my mom singing a song while my dad plays guitar.

What is a favorite quotation, or alternatively, what is a quotation you often think of while writing or rehearsing music?

Zanes: “Am I here to give or am I here to take?” I don’t know who said it but if I’m here to give my heart is open and God can work through me.

Eliaza: I have two: “Music can change the world because it can change people.” and “Where words fail, music speaks.”

Sobrino: “Comparison is the thief of Joy”

For more information and tickets to Night Train 57, visit the Kennedy Center’s website.