The further we get into learning about how Covid-19 is passed and the science behind it, the more we learn how it affects the workers in each industry. Over the past several weeks, we have been collecting new information on safety and cleaning practices and I'd like to share with you some of the information we've come across.
Is it safe to be a musician these days?
Has it ever been safe? Joking aside, there are some risks to our profession. According to the British Thoracic Society, "Wind instrument musicians may be more at risk of chest infections than the general population - possibly linked to bacteria build-up within their instruments." This is a bit alarming when it comes to Covid-19, but their article goes on to point the finger towards bacteria build up in their instrument as the cause, and not necessarily the performance component of being a musician.
So if we keep our instruments clean, are we still at risk? The Bamberg Symphony Orchestra have been working with scientists to study the air currents while individual musicians perform.
"Experts from an Erlangen-based company for fluid mechanics were commissioned to measure the air flows using sensors that escape from an instrument while playing. They were also made visible with artificial fog. The experiment was observed by two scientists from the Freiburg Institute for Musicians' Medicine, who have so far recommended a distance of three to five meters for wind instruments.
Initial investigations revealed hardly any measurable breathing air movements with woodwind and brass players. Neither on the opening flaps of a bassoon nor on the bell of a trumpet were there any turbulence in the artificial fog. "
While there are many factors that have not been covered in these articles (how big is the room, how long are musicians performing in the room, air disruption caused by increased exhalation when performing, to name a few...) that could make performance risky, how do we address the risk they do focus on, namely sanitation? In addition to following the guidelines suggested by the NFHS, we have some extra tips to take into consideration. mouthpieces should be brushed 15 times within 30 seconds using a detergent or sanitizing solution to reduce the microbial load. Warm, soapy water is effective, but if using a sanitizer, use one designed for brass instruments and avoid any bleach-based products, which can damage the plating of your mouthpiece.
Use the right mouthpiece brush for the job! Tuba, trombone and euphonium players should use a large mouthpiece brush, such as the DW4917L. There are smaller brushes, such as the DW4917S for use with trumpet, cornet and French horn mouthpieces. It is important to remove any build-up of dirt and debris, especially from where it tends to build up in the narrowest part of the bore.