Videos instruct young musicians on how to clean instruments before returning them to school

By Jan Jarvis

Valubility Of The Year Honorees For 2017. Sajid Surve

After playing musical instruments during the school year, it is time for students to return the rental equipment, a task that takes on new meaning during the pandemic.

At a time when social distancing is required and hygiene is a top concern, how do middle and high school students properly clean their musical instruments and safely return them to their campus?

The answer lies in a series of videos of students from the Texas Academy of Math and Sciences or TAMS program. In the videos, each student demonstrates how to properly clean their musical instrument. An interdisciplinary team that includes engineers, researchers, graduate students, musicians, instrument tech specialists and other experts from UNT and HSC came up with the idea to keep students and educators safe.

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 Sajid Surve, DO, 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,” he said. “There’s no explanation about the best way to clean each instrument.”

The video series will be delivered to Denton ISD in the next few weeks, and disseminated to fine arts directors across the state, with the possibility to expand it nationwide.

Students have videotaped themselves at home, cleaning each instrument carefully. The procedure can range from simple to complex depending on the instrument

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 new state mandates that address the need for music teachers to be trained to teach children about hearing loss, musculoskeletal and vocal health, and hygiene.

The hygiene-learning objective becomes a more relevant issue during the COVID-19 crisis.

Recommendations for districts and teachers are also being provided to make sure they stay safe and as few adults as possible collect instruments, said Tracey Barnett, PhD, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Associate Professor in Public Health.

Parents are being given instructions on wiping the case and placing the instrument in the trunk of the car when possible, she said. 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, Dr. Barnett said.

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