Can middle school and high school students safely participate in band amid the novel coronavirus pandemic? During the fall 2020 semester, band directors and musicians have been wondering when — or whether — music can be played safely.
A new study by University of Colorado Boulder and University of Maryland found that though musical instruments do generate airborne particles that could carry SARS-CoV-2, it’s possible to mitigate risks for performers and audience members so young people can more safely continue to learn music and cultivate their passion for it. To reduce the spread of aerosols, the researchers tested instrument covers, such as a cloth covering for instrument openings or a sack covering an entire clarinet; both effectively reduced aerosols.
At the beginning of the academic year at MMA, it was clear that in order for the band to play, we would need to acquire instrument covers.
Rob McGrath, MMA bandmaster, started by securing templates that fit the various diameters of the instrument bells. Then, during the first week of band class, he and students made instrument “masks” out of bed sheets donated by Mrs. Morris. The process included cutting a quadrant out of a bed sheet that was folded twice, which once unfolded would make a circle that would fit the appropriate template and cover the instrument bell. Once cadets cut out two circles, they would take them to Linda Rice at the Quartermaster, who sewed the circles together and added an elastic band to create a double-layered mask.
Now, all members of the band have masks on their instruments, enabling them to rehearse and perform. And at the end of each week, McGrath collects the masks and washes them so they’re clean for the following week.
McGrath says the cadets are sounding great and learning a lot. They’re looking forward to sharing their talents with parents via virtual performances later this semester.