Our work is grounded in cross-disciplinary research on the power of music to promote prosocial behavior and empathetic communication.

Music has been recognized as an affective, communicative, and healing art form across disciplines as varied as neuroscience, anthropology, philosophy, musicology, medicine, and education.

Research on our Programs

Cao, E.C. (2013). “Genuine Medicine”: Effects of a Novel Service-Oriented Music Program on Empathy, Self-Esteem, and Prosocial Behavior in Delinquent Youth (Princeton thesis). Retrieved from

Cao, E., & Gowda, D. (2018). Collaborative songwriting for health sciences interprofessional service learning. Medical Education, 52(5), 550.

Cao, E (2018). How Music Heals Us (TEDx Talk). Retrieved from

We are committed to evaluating the impact of Humans in Harmony through gathering qualitative and quantitative data from all our initiatives. Our previous projects have revealed that:

– 100% of songwriters at a health professional educational institution reported greater understanding of a community different from their own, enhanced peer support, and increased engagement in perspective taking and empathetic concern.

– 100% of storytellers at a community living center reported increased connection to others and emotional well-being.

– Songwriters at a juvenile detention center reported a mean 52% increase in their belief that “I can improve someone else’s life.”

– Compared to a general music education workshop, our songwriting workshop resulted in higher percentages of service and civic-oriented attitudes for teens in detention.

Evaluation methods included validated scales such as the Index of Empathy (Bryant, 1982), Self-Esteem Scale (Rosenberg, 1965), and Interpersonal Reactivity Index of Empathy (Davies, 1980).


“I learned that one person or just one song can make somebody else’s life better.” – Teen in juvenile detention (songwriter)

“I told them my story and they didn’t just listen—they heard me.” – Veteran (storyteller)

“It wasn’t just the quality of the songs, it was the heart that was behind each song which was a meaningful thing.” – Kelseanne Breder, nursing student (songwriter)

“Thank you for having me in your thoughts and interpreting my song through your visualization of what I wrote. From reading the words of the song that you wrote, I can deal with my thoughts better than before.” – Veteran (storyteller) to high school student (songwriter)

“I actually put my heart and effort into this. I learned that I could make a song no matter how hard I think it is. I felt pretty confident and motivated.” – Teen in juvenile detention (songwriter)