Mary Cohen

Music Education
Associate Professor

Mary L. Cohen is an Associate Professor of Music Education at the University of Iowa with a joint appointment in the College of Education and the School of Music. She researches music-making and well-being, songwriting, and collaborative communities. She has been a member of the advisory board for the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights ( for over ten years. Dr. Cohen has completed two levels of Orff-Schulwerk Training, participated in Dalcroze training, Laban Movement Analysis training, Creative Motion workshops, Music for People Workshops, Alexander Technique study, and is a certified InterPlay leader.

In 2009, she founded the Oakdale Prison Community Choir ( In 2010 she began the Songwriting Workshop at Oakdale Prison. Her research centers around how music education can be a tool for abolishing the prison industrial complex. In the prison songwriting workshop, the participants have written over 150 songs, and the Oakdale Choir has performed over 75 of these songs, many available using the Creative Commons License on the choir website. She designed and hosted a “Learning Exchange,” a new model for co-participation (singing, moving, and discussions based on a select theme) with all involved in November 2018 with the Soweto Gospel Choir, Maggie Wheeler, and Sara Thomsen. She is collaborating on an international initiative about the role of music in prison, peacebuilding, and abolitionist principles. Her research and writing are culminating in a forthcoming book (with Dr. Stuart Paul Duncan) titled Music-Making in U.S. Prisons: Listening to Incarcerated Voices with Wilfrid Laurier University Press. Her research has been published in the International Journal of Research in Choral Singing, the Journal of Research in Music Education, the Australian Journal of Music Education, the Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, the Journal of Correctional Education, the International Journal of Community Music, The Prison Journal, International Journal of Music Education, and in numerous book chapters.


Research areas
  • Music education
Portrait of Mary Cohen
Contact Information

University of Iowa
4300 Voxman Building (VOX)
93 E. Burlington Street
Iowa City, IA 52240
United States