Riva Capellari

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Located in Brookside in the heart of Kansas City

The scoop on airborne virus transmission while singing

What an odyssey we have all been on.

For me, as for many private voice teachers, the scientific information regarding airborne virus transmission brought about a dramatic change in the way we teach our private voice students. Initially I imagined that I would be returning to the status quo, in person lesson format as soon as the lock-down was lifted. However, it became clear that face to face singing it is not safe and therefore, not advisable for singing teachers to be giving private lessons in their studios.

So here is the science. We all exhale particles of different sizes. Aerosols (droplets small enough to follow the airflow) stay in the air longer (30 minutes or more), travel further (much further than 6 feet) and can penetrate almost all masks, even N95s. Although larger droplets usually end up in our noses, the smallest aerosol particles land in the bottom of our lungs. Speaking louder and laughing produces more of these types of particles, so a singer, especially during sustained, loud singing has the potential to exhale a great amount of them. The full inhalations practiced by singers, invite these smaller particles deeper into their lungs. One micron sized particle can hold 1000 virus particles. The longer one is in a room singing with others, the greater the chance of exposure to the virus. And since people may be contagious well before they are symptomatic, it is not completely possible to screen out those infected.

Armed with this information, I was forced to step out of my comfort zone to offer voice lessons online. Although it presented a huge learning curve, it has allowed me to continue to work with my students under these new and as of now, unavoidable circumstances. The support galvanized throughout the voice community has been a great comfort as together we find the way ahead in our discipline. We are also being supported by companies ramping up their efforts to develop new programs to improve the quality of sound and reduce lag time on such platforms as Zoom.

In the meantime, I have tasked myself with creating new online offerings and marketing, reaching out to new audiences, not just locally, but all over the world, who find the online approach more convenient. Traffic jams, tight schedules and icy roads can now be avoided.

Keeping an eye on my local virus reports and staying aware of any new information coming out of the singing world, helps me form the best decisions for myself and my students. As scientist and researcher Dr. Don Milton reminded us, after a 100 years of studying the flu, there is still no yearly guaranteed flu vaccine. I believe that eventually, Coved-19 will be managed and we will re-discover and fully engage in a way of life that is again filled with singing!

Here are links to more scientific information of airborne transmission: (Journal of Aerosol Science) (National Academy of Sciences of the USA)

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