BHS supports scientific research of COVID-19 for performers
Choir, band, orchestra, theater... all performing artists face unprecedented risk from COVID-19. The Barbershop Harmony Society has joined an international effort to understand the risks the virus brings to classrooms, stages -- and, hopefully, better evidence-based guidance.
Those terrific lungs that drive long, high posts on barbershop tags also seem to be capable of spreading viruses all around a room. How much, and with what accompanying risk, will be the focus of scientific research in the aerosol laboratory at the University of Colorado Boulder, underwritten with support from major performing arts societies around the world. It’s an impressive, still-growing list, including major music education associations, marching band groups, athletic groups, speech and debate groups -- and close harmony organizations such as BHS and Sweet Adelines Intentional.
“We put safety for our singers and our audiences first,” said Marty Monson, CEO of the Barbershop Harmony Society. “We want to provide our ensembles with information that is accurate, science-based, and aligned with the best understanding shared by all our colleagues in the arts space. It’s important the music communities support and unify our efforts as we all understand the value of making music together.”
Led by Dr. Shelly Miller, the effort will be a duplicated study that will test how aerosols can spread from brass and woodwind instruments, the four vocal ranges, theatrical speech, and aerobic breathing. Although not yet proven, strong anecdotal evidence suggests that the COVID-19 virus can travel in the microscopic droplets expelled from a person with the virus, even when asymptomatic. The only way to determine what risk level exists or to create best practices for reducing infection risk is to understand how aerosol disbursement works in a performing arts setting. Once the aerosol rates are better understood, the study will focus on remediation of aerosols in confined spaces like rehearsal rooms (both educational and professional), classrooms, and performance settings in order to develop better understanding, policy, and practice for safely returning to performance and education.