Covid-19 and Wind Instrument Performance
August 13, 2020 (No Comments) by Ganved14

With your editor attending open-air rehearsals of the West Winds Flute Choir, in Southport, Lancs., and many other musicians, amateur and professional, about to do something similar, concerns about safety are uppermost in many minds.

In different parts of the world, the response to the Covid-19 Pandemic has been quite varied, depending upon the knowledge available to different authorities, and the infection rate experienced in different countries. In any case, with regard to the safety of singing and playing wind instruments, there is some confusion — a need to get to the facts that would support a sensible policy

In response to this, on 10th July, 2020 the following article appeared in the U.K. Musician’s Union Journal, entitled:

U.K. Musicians Union Member’s Response to the Guidance on Playing Wind and Brass Instruments

A few days later, on July 22nd, the following article appeared in the uk daily The Guardian:

Sing into the funnel please: inside the Covid-19 lab hoping to declare singing safe.

A lengthier discussion, with a more technical orientation, had already appeared in June from the University of Iowa, titled

Iowa Head and Neck Protocols: Wind Musicians’ Risk Assessment in the Time of COVID-19

Conclusions from this group were very cautious — more conservative than the U.K. Musicians Union. At one point they state:

Risks of playing a wind instrument are probably different than those involved in singing, though there are similarities. The flute, for example, creates a strong airflow, though other instruments do not. But airflow does not tell the whole story. Playing a wind instrument involves deep breathing, sometimes forceful exhalation, and possible aerosolization of the mucus in the mouth and nose, along with secretions from deeper airway structures. The only peer-reviewed, published study on a wind “instrument” and aerosolization investigated the vuvuzela and found significant aerosol production (Lai et al.). There is, therefore, at least a theoretical risk of droplet or aerosol transmission during wind performance, but more study needs to be done.

Again, from the U.S.A. more data can be found in an article in the July issue of Science Magazine.

Is it safe to strike up the band in a time of coronavirus?

There is also a very thorough overview of current research, as scanty as that is, in a report, again from early July of this year, from Public Health Ontario.

We are attempting to obtain further information on this important topic. If you have any contribution to this please contact:

The Editor, International Flute Journal:

Thank you




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