Sun Prairie band teacher asks public health to allow indoor rehearsals

Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 11:48 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 27, 2021 at 5:34 PM CDT
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SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (WMTV) - A band teacher in Sun Prairie is pleading with public health officials to reconsider a rule that currently bans his students from playing wind instruments inside.

Chris Gleason is a long-time Instrumental Music Educator at Patrick Marsh Middle School. Currently his band students must play their instruments outside, since Public Health Madison Dane County’s latest health order, #17, prohibits them from doing so inside.

He dealt with this same hurdle in the spring of 2021. “There was concern about instrumental wind playing and the aerosols that would go in the air and so on, and understandably so. So, we were asked to play out in tents outdoors,” said Gleason.

Dane County’s Public Health Order #16 would have allowed them to finally return inside for class, but #17 reversed course. That means he and his music department colleague are back to arriving an hour early to set up dozens of chairs and music stands in the school’s back parking lot.

While the weather has been fairly cooperative for the first week of school, Gleason is not sure they’ll be able to continue outside rehearsals once the winter brings cold temperatures and snow.

“I mean I have kids coming in crying, because they won’t be able to do what they wanted to do for the last 18 months. I have kids quitting, where I our numbers are half what they used to be,” told Gleason.

He feels they can perform inside safely by using bell covers, instrument bags, slitted masks, and distancing to help prevent aerosols from spreading.

Gleason has presented PHMDC with research from the International Coalition Performing Arts, among other studies, to back up his stance.

“Even though this Delta variant is more transmissible, the aerosols are the same. We have research to show that our aerosols can be stopped and mitigated by our techniques, and we just want to do that,” explained Gleason.

Public Health Madison Dane County official said they are following CDC guidelines, which do not have exceptions for playing wind instruments.

Public health officials also said these studies were conducted prior to the Delta variant becoming the dominant strain and that they “are not aware of any studies on wind instruments and the Delta variant”.

Public health officials said they "are not aware of any studies on wind instruments and the...
Public health officials said they "are not aware of any studies on wind instruments and the Delta variant".(WMTV)

Still, Gleason and his colleagues are asking PHMDC to reconsider. “These kids want this and they need this right now and I know we can do this safely, so we’re just pleading for that to happen,” said Gleason.

PHMDC said they are hopeful that the current order will help slow the spread of COVID enough that it can expire on September 16th, allowing the band to play indoors again.

PHMDC has always followed the science and data and turned to CDC for direction on our COVID-19 response. When it comes to singers, musicians or performers, there are no exceptions found within CDC guidelines for these activities. Therefore, there are no exceptions in the Order for removing masks to play instruments or sing. The Order does list the following exception: if there are individuals in the audience who are hard of hearing and a performer needs to remove a mask to communicate with those individuals they may do so. While we are sympathetic to the impact this may have, we must hold true to the science and data and continue to follow CDC recommendations. At the time when we implemented exemptions in previous Orders for wind instruments it was before the Delta variant was the prevalent strain. All of the studies that were reviewed and supported the previous exemptions were done before the Delta variant became prevalent and we are not aware of any studies on wind instruments and the Delta variant. As we have seen, unfortunately this variant is 2x more infectious then previous strains. Therefore, we are not able to create such an exemption in the current order. All individuals are encouraged to perform outside where masks are not required. We are hopeful that this current order will help slow the spread of COVID and will expire on September 16th without a need for a further order.

Full statement from PHMDC

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