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The Latest COVID-19 Research for Music Programs

Normally during this time of year, students are finishing up summer camps, parents are shopping for last-minute school supplies, and teachers are preparing their lessons for the upcoming year. But as we all know, this has not been a normal year. We have faced many ups and downs as we try to figure out "the new normal."

For music students in particular, many questions have been raised and few have been answered about the impact of COVID-19 on returning to band or orchestra. It is our hope that the scientific community continues to shed light on ways to make music together both safely and responsibly. Music offers a platform for students to learn skills necessary to be successful later in life: creative problem solving, self-expression, and an awareness of those around us. These lessons will be even more vital as we return to life after COVID-19 and look to offset the effects of quarantine. 

In one of our recent blogs, we discussed some early considerations for safely returning to the music classroom. We mentioned several research studies that had already taken place and a few more that were underway. One such study, conducted by the University of Colorado at Boulder, released some preliminary findings in mid-July. In today's blog, we'll be reviewing those findings.

Performing Arts Aerosol Study

The first round of the study includes results for clarinet, flute, horn, soprano singer, and trumpet. These preliminary results are to be used strictly for general consideration and will be updated as new information becomes available. To view a full report of the preliminary results, please visit this link

As of August 17, 2020, the NFHS released this statement:

"All information provided through the study is to be used strictly for general consideration. This information will be updated when it becomes available, please share the link to this webpage instead of the individual documents."

The following considerations were recommended based on the data collected during the research study:


  • Masks should be worn by all students and staff prior to entering the performing arts room. Masks should continue to be worn until all students are seated and ready for instruction (example: long rests, sectional work, moving around the room, etc.)
  • No talking should occur in the room without a mask being properly worn.
  • When possible a mask with a small slit for mouthpiece access should be worn while playing.
  • In instrument groups where a mask cannot physically be worn the mask should be worn over the chin and replaced during periods where the student is not playing. No talking without a mask.

Distancing and Rehearsal Space Arrangement

  • Social distancing should occur as suggested by the CDC. Currently that distance is a 6x6 foot space around each student with the student sitting in the center. This may reduce the number of students that can fit in a performing arts classroom. Straight lines should be used as curved setups can affect the aerosol movement in a room.
  • Students should sit all facing the same direction, back to front to minimize potential exposure.
  • Trombones should have an additional three feet of distancing making their space 9x6. The player should be seated three feet in front of the back line, leaving an additional six feet in front of them due to the extended nature of the instrument and slide that can be in extended position.
  • The preliminary findings from the study also support the previously published article from NFHS:  "Guidance for a Return to High School Marching Band."


  • Masks are strongly recommended while playing instruments, singing, acting, or dancing
  • Rehearse in 30 minute blocks with 6ft of spacing
  • Take a 5-minute pause between blocks


  • Masks are required for playing instruments, singing, acting, or dancing
  • Rehearse in 30 minute blocks with 6ft of spacing
  • Minimum of one air change between classes

Classroom Procedures

  • Spit valves should not be emptied on the floor. Recommend using a puppy pad (or similar) to catch the contents of the spit valve and discard.
  • Storage areas should be managed to limit the number of students at a time in the room. Anyone who enters the room should bring a 70% alcohol wipe to wipe all surfaces before and after touching. The wipe should be discarded properly upon leaving the storage area.
  • Additionally, bell covers are highly recommended as "masks" for the instruments. Bell covers can be made of multi-layered high denier nylon material and provide a barrier for aerosols.
  • Outdoor rehearsals are considered best practice; indoor rehearsals using CDC guidelines plus bell covers may be considered.

Facility Accommodations

  • Existing HVAC systems should be fitted with HEPA filters if possible.
  • There are HEPA air purifiers on the market to provide additional filtration appropriate to the size of the rehearsal space which will increase the air change rate from standard HVAC systems.
  • An option to indoor, poorly ventilated space might be an open-sided tent. This does not allow sunlight or vertical mixing effects but does reduce sun exposure to students.



Based on the initial findings, the lead scientists from the study made the following statement:

"These results are preliminary and will be further defined as the study continues. We are providing these preliminary results to assist in the safer return to performing arts activities. This study focuses strictly on the distribution of respiratory aerosol that is generated while playing wind instruments, singing, acting, speaking, dancing, and in a simulated aerobic activity, which may potentially contain virus. This study did not use a live virus and therefore cannot be used to determine specific infection rates. However, this study is based on previous research that shows the virus which causes COVID-19 can travel in respiratory aerosol. This study then was designed to identify performing arts activities that generate respiratory aerosol including volume, direction, density, and mitigation strategies."

Whether your school is returning virtually or in-person, we hope that you'll continue to make music safely and responsibly. The goal is to return to performing arts education in a safe way with research that shows us best practices for these activities.

If you'd like to support the continuation of this research study, please remit your check made payable to the NFHS with “COVID-19 aerosol research study” in the memo line. Please mail to:  


PO Box 690 

Indianapolis, IN  46206 

Resources cited include:

Posted by Emilee McGee at 09:36