- Music education programs should consider student safety through masking, instrument-sharing policies, distancing and outdoor singing, according to updated guidance from the National Association for Music Education and the National Federation of State High School Associations.
- Music teachers, through a survey from NAfME and NHFS, also suggested schools design music lessons that emphasize social and emotional learning; focus on joyful music-making; and redesigning performances to not require bringing large groups of people together.
- Among all courses in K-12 schools that are difficult to maneuver during the pandemic, music education is one of the most risky due to the aerosol particles from singing and playing wind instruments that can contribute to airborne infection of COVID-19. Music education, however, is essential in supporting students' academic and social-emotional growth, according to experts and research.
Schools have made significant changes to music programs during the public health crisis.
Matthew Bufis, director of Bands and Lead Teacher for Fine Arts in Evanston Township High School District 202 in Illinois, recently told the Evanston RoundTable that the district has put bell covers on the bottom openings of wind instruments, and students playing wind instruments have custom-sized slitted face coverings to allow for safety when using mouthpieces.
The district is largely following Illinois Department of Public Health guidance about musical activities, Bufis told the news outlet.
In some New York City public schools, teachers from Education Through Music, a nonprofit organization that helps build music programs in underresourced schools at all grade levels, used several online apps and learning platforms during remote instruction to coordinate instruction and virtual performances, said Nick LaFleur, director of partnership programs for ETM.
When students attended in-person school, music instruction occurred outside when possible.
"What we have learned over 30 years is that there's always a way, and you have to find that way, to be creative and problem solve and make it work," LaFleur said. "That is really the name of the game, even non-pandemic times. There's all kinds of challenges."
ETM has provided $125,000 to schools to help them continue their music programs during the pandemic.
Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Education say Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds can be used for expanded arts programs. NAfME has created a toolkit to help districts identify ways ESSER funding can support music programs, including through the hiring and training of music educators and the purchase of supplies to keep instruments sanitized.
Additional guidance from the Education Department urges schools to continue their arts programs by implementing layers of safety precautions. Arts instruction contributes to students' self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision-making and more, according to NAfME.
LaFleur also recommends that school leaders, who may not be familiar with music programs, form partnerships with organizations that can advise — and potentially support — the continuation of music education and performances in schools. Equitable access to music programming for all students should be a top priority, he said.
"We want our impact to be as broad as possible," LaFleur said.