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Music through a mask, research helps guides performing arts organizations perform safely

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) – There has been a long list of things to think about ahead of the new school year during the pandemic, so if music is not your forte, doing it safely could take some extra effort depending on the instrument. Instructors in grade schools, universities, and institutions like the Wausau Conservatory of Music have been closely following new research specifically looking at how to perform safely in person.

Since the latest research shows COVID-19 spreads largely through the air in droplets when people speak, sneeze, cough, etc. singing and playing wind instruments, in particular, have created additional challenges to the simple call to social distance and wear a mask.

“They have this joke in vocal– in singing where if you sit in the front row, you might get spit on. It’s because they are projecting as much as possible and that’s part of the training,” Olivia Hill, Wausau Conservatory of Music’s executive director said.

She explained when the pandemic began impacting Wisconsin, WCM closed for a very brief time, but they were able to transition to virtual music lessons for about 73% of their students. For the others, she said they were in constant communication with instructors and families to see what their needs and concerns were. For young students especially, she said learning to tune their own instrument was a challenge and they couldn’t guide fingers or make notations in their sheet music for them.

Artist instructor of flute, James Roseman, said some of that need to have the student take charge of their own work has helped to strengthen their abilities. However, they also have had to stop ensemble music because of the lag time over the internet.

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