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3 Jan, 2022 19:47

Band students ordered to ‘fake play’ music amid Omicron

Massachusetts school district bans children from blowing into their instruments, citing spread of new Covid-19 variant
Band students ordered to ‘fake play’ music amid Omicron

Band classes in a suburban Boston school system have gotten far quieter, as administrators are reportedly requiring students to silently finger their instruments without mouthpieces to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Grade school students in Wilmington, Massachusetts, have been barred from blowing into woodwind or brass instruments – such as trumpets, clarinets, flutes and trombones – during classroom lessons, according to an alleged district email published by Bring Kids Back MA, a parent group that has advocated for in-person classes during the pandemic.

Students are expected to assemble their instruments, except mouthpieces, and move their fingers across the keys to simulate playing during exercises and songs, according to the email, which hasn’t been confirmed by the district so far. They must also wear masks at all times. Percussion students will be free to play their instruments as usual, since banging drums and cymbals doesn’t involve “blowing aerosols into the classroom.”

“We have determined that while not optimal for music education, these steps will lead to keeping our students safer right now,” the email said. The district cited the rapid spread of Omicron and relatively low vaccination rates among grade school students, who haven’t been eligible to get Covid-19 jabs as long as older children.

As noted by the Post Millennial, which reported on the Wilmington email earlier on Monday, the district made no mention of guidelines for band performances, where audiences presumably wouldn’t appreciate fake playing. Students are expected to practice their instruments at home while going through the motions of playing them at school.

Covid-19 mitigation measures have been especially challenging for band classes, given the potential for tiny virus droplets to spread through the air when playing wind instruments. In some cases, students have been required to blow into their instruments through masks with slits.

A school in Wenatchee, Washington, last year drew online ridicule after requiring students to play their instruments in tiny, socially distanced tents.