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Music in Action
2020 Young Alumni Award Recipient
Minami Cohen

Minami Cohen, MM ’15

A native of Okinawa, Japan, Minami Cohen earned her Master’s in Music Education with Kodály Emphasis from HNU in 2015.

“I felt like every day was so special being in the program,” she explained. “It transforms lives … I discovered what I wanted to be as an educator and as a person.” 

Already a credentialed educator, Cohen first learned about the HNU program in 2012 from a guest teacher, Fran Smith, MM ‘10, who visited her early childhood classroom. Cohen instantly knew that teaching through the Kodály method was “exactly what I wanted to do.” 

Now a music educator teaching elementary school music and choir in the Hayward Unified School District, she focuses on ensuring that students of color and those from underserved communities learn about the magic of music from many cultures around the world. 

“Cohen understands that music education in public schools is more than notes and singing,” said Jonathan Napier-Morales ’19, a colleague at Hayward Unified. 

Cohen believes music education is a key to students’ achievement and well-being—both inside and outside the classroom. She practices Culturally Responsive Teaching, with material that is directly tied to the cultural identities of her students—and with respect for their heritage and history. Cohen collaborates with her students to solve problems with resiliency and self-direction. She added, “And we find lots of moments of joy, as many as possible.”

“I was really fortunate to have amazing music teachers that changed my life, throughout my schooling,” she recalled. Now, as an educator herself, her goal is to ”instill the love of music, and how that can uplift us—especially now, when things are really difficult,” she said. “The music can be an instrument to take action.” 

Cohen maintains an active involvement in the HNU music community. Her longstanding ties with HNU run deep throughout her work, “Holy Names faculty showed us how to build a relationship with students—to really know who they are [and can be]. Now I like to do that in my classroom.”