Musicking, Christopher Small, and Relationships with Mary Cohen

Alan and Steve talk with educator, author, and musicker Mary Cohen about incorporating the Musicking ideas of Christopher Small.

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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, researchers from 16 countries who meet monthly and collaborate on projects. 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 works to create communities of caring on personal, social, and environmental 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.” This summer 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. This September 2023, she began leading a weekly music group at the Juvenile Detention Center of Linn County in Iowa.