Nancy Yunhwa Rao is one of the leading scholars in Chinese American music studies. Her work highlights the much-neglected musical history of Chinese in the United States, Canada, and Cuba. Her research has led to writings on transnational issues in the production and opera performance in these Chinatown theaters. She has mined immigration files for this research. Publications in this area can be found in Cambridge Opera Journal, Journal of the Society for American Music, Journal of 19th Century Music Review, as well as several collections of essays. Her book, Chinatown Theater in North America (University Illinois Press, 2017) includes analysis of playbills, performing networks, opera arias, stage spectacles, and more. As a music theorist, Rao has explored intersections between China and the West, in particular global perspectives in contemporary Chinese music. She has published on the use of music gestures, vocal style, and percussion patterns of Beijing opera in contemporary music by composers of Chinese origin. Her study on the American composer, Ruth Crawford, won her a national award of best article in American music published in 2007 from the Society for American Music. She has continued in the direction of sketch studies, for which her publication can be found in Music Theory Spectrum, as well as Carter Studies Online.