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Music Lessons + Covid-19 Update                                                                                                             


Preliminary Results of Performing Arts Aerosol Study Depict Hopeful Outlook for Future Music Activities

By NFHS on July 16, 2020 

Initial results of an aerosol study commissioned by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA) and more than 125 performing arts organizations have yielded preliminary data and considerations that could help prevent the cancellation of performing arts activities in the future amid the Coronavirus pandemic.

This is the first of three stages of results for the study, which was launched in May behind lead funding from the NFHS, CBDNA, the National Association of Music Merchants and the D’Addario Foundation. More findings incorporating a wider range of activities are expected to be released later this month and again with the completion of the study in December.           

“This study is the first of its kind and will be able to supply scientific data to allow us to find ways to return to the performing arts classrooms and performance halls,” said Dr. James Weaver, NFHS Director of Performing Arts and Sports, who co-chairs the study with Mark Spede, CBDNA President and Clemson University director of bands. “We have brilliant researchers and a global coalition that are working hard to find science-based solutions to return to activities during a global pandemic.”

“This endeavor, which has brought together an unprecedented number of music organizations, is seeking scientific solutions to keep music alive in the classroom through the pandemic,” said Spede.

Under the direction of lead researchers Dr. Shelly Miller of the University of Colorado Boulder (UCB) and Dr. Jelena Srebric of the University of Maryland, respiratory emissions analysis was conducted on subjects playing four different musical instruments – clarinet, flute, horn and trumpet – and a soprano singer to identify aerosol release pathways and measure particle size and concentration. Similar tests will now be run to find aerosol rates for additional music instruments and activities, as well as speech, debate, theatre and an aerobic simulation.

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:

Among its most significant considerations, the study recommends masks be worn by all students and staff in a performing arts room – even while playing instruments when possible – and that no talking should be done without a mask on. Participants who cannot feasibly wear a mask over the mouth while playing should wear one on the chin and move it over the mouth when resting. Teachers can reduce their own emissions by using a portable amplifier to keep their voices at a low conversational volume.

Students should sit facing the same direction while adhering to social distancing guidelines put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with additional space provided for trombone players. Spit valves should be emptied onto a puppy waste pad (or similar) rather than the floor so that contents can be contained.

Where possible, existing HVAC systems in activity rooms should be fitted with HEPA filters, which will increase air filtration appropriate to the size of the rehearsal space.

Finally, as a supplement to the NFHS “Guidance for a Return to High School Marching Band,” the study found that bell covers – ideally fashioned from multi-layered, high-denier nylon material and placed over the bell of an instrument – made a substantial impact on performers’ aerosol pathways.

Thanks to a handy risk estimator tool developed by UCB, administrators and band directors who wish to assess the aerosol transmission risk relative to the unique elements of their rehearsal spaces can do so here: (Note: scientific input values will change as the study develops.)

International Coalition Performing Arts Aerosol Study
James Weaver (NFHS) and Mark Spede (CBDNA), Chairs
Shelly Miller,University of ColoradoBoulder and Jelena Srebric, University of Maryland, Lead Scientists

Preliminary Recommendations from International Performing Arts Aerosol Study Based on Initial Testing Results

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.Aerosol is defined as solid or liquid particles suspended in a gas.

•We are entering week 3 of a 6-month study; results may change over time.

•Lab techniques continue to be refined as subjects are in lab, aiming for better accuracy.

•Wind instruments produce aerosol,which vary by instrument as well as intensity.Trends that the team has measured include:
-Woodwinds have aerosol coming from keyholes and bells.
-Brass have aerosols coming from bell.

•At this time, it appears that if players wear surgical style masks with a slit for mouthpiece AND bell covers, aerosol emission is reduced. Flute players can put the headjoint between their mouth and mask (see and use a “flute sock” attached to the foot (see

•Bell covers tested so far were made from pantyhose made of 80 denier in 2 layers.

•Singers produce aerosol, which vary with consonants, vowels, and intensity.

•At this time, it appears that if singers wear surgical style masks (others will be tested soon), aerosol emission is reduced.

•Face shields are only effective at close range to stop large droplets; they do not prevent aerosol from being inhaled or released so mask must also be worn.

•Plexiglass partitions or barriers between musicians are not recommended because the room HVAC system cannot properly change the air as designed. "Dead zones" or areas where aerosol can build-up are a concern.

Rehearsal space recommendations in order of preference:
-Outdoor rehearsals, using individual mitigation techniques described above.
-Outdoor gazebo style tents with open sides and a high-pitched ceiling with mitigations.
-Indoors with elevated outdoor air exchange rate from HVAC.-Indoors with typical outdoor air exchange rate from HVAC plus re-circulation air through MERV 13 filters or addition of appropriately sized HEPA air purifiers.
-Indoors with outdoor air exchange rate from open windows supplemented with appropriately sized HEPA air purifiers when airflow is reduced under certain outdoor wind conditions.Please refer to the Association for Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) guidance on ventilation during COVID-19:

•General procedures
-Masks must be worn at all times.
-CDC guidelines for social distancing of 6x6 feet, with 9x6 for trombone players.
-Indoor rehearsals should last for 30 minutes followed by clearing the room for 20-minutesfor the HVAC system to change the air indoors with outside air.

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