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

Research partners:

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

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:

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

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

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

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

Research on our Programs


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

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 senior thesis).


Cao, E (2017, June). A Proposal for the Creation of a Music Corps.” Poster Presentation at Music, Selves, and Societies Workshop. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

Cao E, Gowda D (2016, March). “Send-A-Song”: A Musical Intervention Project for Medical Students and At-Risk Youth. Short Communications Presentation at Northeastern Group on Educational Affairs Annual Conference, Brown Warren Alpert School of Medicine, Providence, RI.

Cao, E, Breder, K, Vu, A. (March, 2016). A songwriting intervention project for Bronx VA Community Living Center Patients. Presentation at Bronx VA quality improvement session, Bronx, NY.

Cao E, Vu A, Gowda D (2015, October). The Benefits of Music and Service-Learning: An Intervention Program for Medical Students and At-Risk Youth. Presentation at Steve Miller Lecture on Humanism in Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY.

Cao E, Armstrong-Coben A, Catallozzi M, Perez-Figueroas, R, Gowda, D (2015, September). “Send-A-Song”: Evaluation of a Songwriting Program on Empathy Enhancement in Health Professional Students. Poster presented at IFAP Global Health Poster Symposium, Columbia University Medical Center, NYC.


“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)