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Music programs can support personal and social growth for people experiencing incarceration

Talk of Iowa, hosted by Charity Nebbe

There's a long history of music making in prisons, but each program tends to be grassroots and unique.

The power of each program witnessed only by those involved and often unappreciated by many on the outside looking in.

Mary Cohen and Stuart Paul Duncan have both been involved in music programs at U.S. prisons. Cohen led the Oakdale Community Choir at the Iowa Medical Classification Center in Coralville for 11 years. Duncan taught a music appreciation class at the Auburn Correctional Facility in New York.

Together they wrote the book Music-Making in U.S. Prisons: Listening to Incarcerated Voices, which looks at how music-making creates opportunities to humanize the complexity of crime, sustain meaningful relationships between incarcerated individuals and their families, and build social awareness of the prison industrial complex.

Later in this episode, Talk of Iowa host Charity Nebbe talks with composer Nathan Felix, who has staged various immersive operas across the country. His latest creation, The Great Flood, gives a fictionalized perspective of the 2008 flood of eastern Iowa, and will be performed at the Stanley Museum of Art in Iowa City April 27.


  • Mary Cohen, associate professor of music education, University of Iowa
  • Stuart Paul Duncan, director of programming and diversity recruitment, University of Connecticut
  • Nathan Felix, composer and director

The Stanley Museum of Art is an underwriter of IPR

Editor’s note: A portion of the proceeds for Lyndsey Scott’s song “Over/Under” go toward Inside Out Reentry Community, rather than 100% of the proceeds, as stated during the episode.

Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Samantha McIntosh is a talk show producer at Iowa Public Radio. Prior to IPR, Samantha worked as a reporter for radio stations in southeast and west central Iowa under M&H Broadcasting, and before that she was a weekend music host for GO 96.3 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.