Ashley Marie Cooper
Ashley Cooper strives to work dually as a mental health researcher and musical theater practitioner (lyricist, librettist, bookwriter, and actor). She is the recipient of the Musicians United for Social Equity (MUSE) Linda Twine Scholarship (2022), a member of the MUSE One-on-One Mentorship Program (2022 – 2023) (mentor: Winston Roye), and of the Maestra Music Mentorship Program (2022 – 2023) (mentor: Tia DeShazor). For her innovative musical theater work rooted in mental health equity, Ashley was also awarded the Boris Lawrence Henson Mental Health Scholarship (2023), by award-winning actor Taraji P. Henson.
Ashley graduated in 2023 from Harvard Medical School’s Master of Science in Media, Medicine, and Health, with a focus field in theater. She recently graduated from Harvard College in 2021 with Highest Honors in Neuroscience and Anthropology. She holds an MPhil in Health, Medicine, and Society from the University of Cambridge, where she served as the Lionel de Jersey Harvard Fellow as a recipient of the Harvard-Cambridge Scholarship.
As an artist, Ashley seeks to create works that lie at the nexus between mental health and theatrical expression, galvanizing increased awareness of racial gradients in mental healthcare and fostering elevated mental health equity for Black individuals. As a writer, she strives to utilize playwriting to explore the intersections of race, culture, and mental health across the Black Diaspora.
Through her works — for instance, her musical entitled Reverie, which focalizes upon childhood grief, as well as the 182 Percent Project, a verbatim musical which she is currently constructing that focuses on the alarming rise in suicide amongst Black girls — she yearns to bring to the fore that which is all too often relegated to the periphery. That is, she endeavors to render visible the narratives underlying the harrowing statistics of Black youth suicide and the egregious undertreatment of Black women’s depression—narratives which all too often go unheard, or which have been obfuscated from historical purview. Throughout her career, she seeks to ameliorate inequities in mental health delivery to the Black community by formulating theatrical productions centralized at the intersection of mental health and racial health disparities.
A Mellon Mays Fellow and John Harvard Scholar, Ashley aims to increase equity in mental health care dispersal, and especially to foster increased accessibility to mental healthcare for the Black community. Her interdisciplinary honors thesis entitled “Racism’s Health Harm on Black Youth Mental Health: From (Neuro)Scientific Orthodoxy to Neuroscience as a Vessel of Visibility,” was the first-ever analysis of how perceived discrimination impacts the functional network connectivity of Black youth. For this work, she received the Thomas Temple Hoopes Prize for outstanding undergraduate research, as well as the Anthropology Department’s Clyde Kluckhohn Prize. During her time as an undergraduate, Ashley was awarded the Harvard Foundation Insignia Award, the Julia Shaffner Memorial Prize, the Science Club for Girls Catalyst Award, Le Prix d’Excellence, and a Congressional Recognition from Senator Elizabeth Warren, in acknowledgment of her leadership and academic achievements.
She has performed at Carnegie Hall, on NBC’s The Today Show, the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.), The Lincoln Financial Field, Cambridge Junction, the Kimmel Center, and most recently at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
- NYC/Tri-State Area
- Boston/New England
- Theatrical Composer (Music and Lyrics)
- Theatrical Lyricist
- Vocal Arranger
My Primary Instrument