Whether completely virtual, hybrid, or in-person with modifications, every vocal music class this fall is going to look different.  We reached out to experts in our field who have provided some potential frameworks, methods, approaches, and methods you may be able to use as you navigate your choral/a cappella courses during COVID-19.

 

In Person

Prepared by Dr. J.D. Frizzell, AEA President

Note: The AEA is not suggesting that singing in person indoors is necessarily safe. We are simply providing this information to help schools who are singing do so while reducing risk as much as possible.

If you are teaching vocal music classes in person, there are a number of protocols you can put into place to mitigate the risk for both you and your students. Here are my plans for choirs and a cappella groups at Briarcrest, my school.

  • Choir students will be seated 6 feet apart.
  • Have individual folders for sheet music that students take with them each day.
  • Each student will have a microphone stand with a dual layer POP filter on it to help reduce air flow and aerosol spread. Students will sing directly into this POP filter with lips flush against the surface.  Each student will bring their own individual POP filter (provided by the school) to class daily and attach it to the microphone stand.
  • Students and teachers will wear a mask at any time they are not actively singing into a POP filter.  This includes entry and exit from the classroom and any time they are waiting to sing again. I have found that neck gaiters are the easiest to use for continuous movement on and off the mouth and nose.

  • The choir room HVAC will run continuously to increase air filtration.
  • A hospital grade HEPA filter has been installed in the choir room.
  • The conductor will have a plexiglass shield in front of the podium.
  • The accompanist will have a plexiglass shield in front of the piano.
  • Large choir classes have been split into two smaller classes.
  • Students will have assigned seats in case contact tracing is necessary.
  • The back door will be propped open as weather permits to allow outside air to enter and circulate.

Costs for these measures:

  • Microphone stands– $28 per microphone stand (class set, not individual).
  • POP filter– $11 per student (every student has their own and brings to class).
  • HEPA Filter- $220-$320 depending on size of room (Link to Large and Small).
  • Plexiglass Shield– $120 (suggested if conductor or piano is closer than 10 feet from students. Not suggested as a replacement for 6 feet of separation between singers).

Let’s say you have 100 students in your program with 30 in the room at a time.  You could drastically mitigate the risk of singing by investing $22.40 per singer.

Ideas for separating at least six feet:

  • Your normal choir room with smaller classes (this is what we are doing. Our normal capacity is 110 singers and at 6 ft. it is 31.)
  • Your auditorium, either on stage or in seats
  • A big atrium or open hallway
  • A covered outdoor area
  •  Cafeteria (since most schools are doing lunches in the classrooms this may be available)

Things to avoid:

  • Not using masks and/or POP filters at all times.
  • Having singers closer than 6 feet together.
  • Having students stand and sing in a circle.
  • Singing in a room with poor ventilation.
  • Plexiglass shields around or in between singers.  This hinders the ability of the HEPA filters and HVAC system to circulate and filter air.

Other ideas to mitigate risk:

I used the calculator available from the University of Colorado Boulder to measure the approximate risk of exposure with my conditions and setup.  The calculator showed that my solution has a 99.7 percent chance of effectively preventing the spread of COVID-19.  That is a percentage that my administration, parents, students, and I are comfortable with.

Concerts:

Depending on the current situation locally (including max gathering numbers), we will utilize a “one ensemble at a time” plan.  For example, in a choir concert, we may start with the 6th grade choir on stage with 6th grade parents/friends/family in the audience (socially distanced with masks on).  Those students will perform, be released, and leave campus promptly with their parents/guardians.  Then, 7th/8th grade choir will perform with their parents/friends/family in the audience and then promptly leave.  This process will continue for high school. Students will utilize all distancing and safety protocols from rehearsals in their performances.  Online streaming will be available for those who are uncomfortable or unable to attend a performance in person.

References

Performing Arts Aerosol Study, Colorado State University, Preliminary Findings

Singing in choirs and making music with wind instruments ‒ Is that safe during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic? Christian J. Kähler (Prof. Dr.) and Rainer Hain (Dr.)

Accompanying video to above study

Risk Calculator Tool, University of Colorado Boulder

Virtual or Hybrid

Prepared by Shannon McNulty, Co-Producer of the National A Cappella Convention

Note: There are affiliate links in this article.  Any commissions earned from these links are donated to the AEA.