FORT WORTH, Texas — It’s that time of the year when students drop off items owned by their school.
Maybe a uniform or a musical instrument.
But as the coronavirus pandemic keeps schools closed, the return procedure calls for a different approach this year.
But what does one do when social distancing is required? How can students — or their parents — properly clean their musical instruments and get them returned to campus all while ensuring the safety of all involved?
Fortunately, students from the Texas Academy of Math and Sciences have developed a series of videos demonstrating how to properly clean musical instruments.
An interdisciplinary team that includes engineers, researchers, graduate students, musicians, instrument tech specialists and other experts from the University of North Texas and Health Science Center of Fort Worth came up with the idea to keep students and educators safe.
According to UNT and HSC, about a million children in Texas are involved in public school music programs, many of whom are instrumentalists. A large percentage play instruments rented from their school district.
“Many school districts are struggling with this issue right now,” said in a press release from Sajid Surve, associate professor of family medicine at HSC and co-director of the Texas Center for Performing Arts Health. “It’s a very interesting problem because there have not been any proper guidelines.”
Students have started videotaping themselves at home, cleaning each instrument carefully. The procedure can range from simple to complex depending on the instrument.
The video will be delivered to Denton ISD in the coming weeks and there are hopes it expands nationwide.
“There’s no explanation about the best way to clean each instrument.” said Kris Chesky, professor in the College of Music at UNT and co-director of the Texas Center for Performing Arts Health. “Trumpets are the most complex to clean. String instruments are really quick.”
The videos are an extension of the Texas Center for Performing Arts Health’s effort to teach educators how they can incorporate health and safety practices into their classes.
The project is partially funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health. The funding is a response to the new state mandates, which address the need for music teachers to be trained to teach children about hearing loss, musculoskeletal and vocal health, or hygiene.
“Recommendations for districts and teachers are also being provided to make sure they stay safe and as few adults as possible collect instruments, said Dr. Tracey Barnett, associate dean for academic affairs and associate professor in public health at UNT. “Parents are being given instructions on wiping the case and placing the instrument in the trunk of the car when possible.”
Teachers are encouraged to wear personal protective equipment, wipe the cases before placing the instruments in storage and leave them alone for a period.
“In addition to protecting school personnel when items are returned from homes, the guidelines helped guard against any potential community spread that could result from large numbers of parents and kids needing to come to the school,” Barnett said.