Mary Cohen


Mary L. Cohen, Associate Professor of Music Education at the University of Iowa, researches music-making and well-being and is lead author of Music-Making in U.S. Prisons: Listening to Incarcerated Voices (2022)She founded the International Music and Justice Network: IMAJIN Caring Communities with researchers from 17 countries. From 2009 to 2020 she led the Oakdale Community Choir ( with incarcerated and non-incarcerated participants. She has been a keynote for conferences in Germany, Canada, and Portugal, interviewed by the BBC3 Music Matters radio show, and has over 40 publications in journal articles, book chapters, and conference proceedings. She is currently leading weekly music groups inside the Juvenile Detention Center of Linn County. 

She works to create communities of caring on personal and social levels. Personal levels include a variety of well-being practices including self-care and self-compassion. Social levels include efforts toward transformative justice with lenses of Ubuntu, anti-racism, and dismantling carceral logics. She has used group singing, songwriting, and improvisation as musical means to build communities of caring. She completed peacebuilding dialogue training and designed a class called "Peacebuilding, Singing, and Writing in a Prison Choir." In the summer of 2023, she began the Inside Outside Songwriting Collaboration Project where she facilitates partnerships between incarcerated Iowa songwriters and songwriters from across the US and the UK. 

mary cohen