Third round of Performing Arts Aerosol Study produces more scientific data for return to activities


The MIA is a member of the Performing Arts Aerosol Study Coalition. The coalition’s task is to identify ways to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in performing arts activities. The unprecedented aerosol study, which is now in its third release of data, is commissioned by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA) and a coalition of more than 125 performing arts organisations, which includes the MIA and our friends and partners at NAMM. Read on to find out the most recent key findings of the study…

Among the key findings in the most recent results – which focused on the distribution of respiratory aerosol generated while playing wind instruments, singing, acting, speaking and dancing – was that if music participants wear surgical-style masks with a slit for the mouthpiece, and use an appropriate bell cover, that aerosol emission is reduced between 60 and 90 percent.

The third release of information was preceded by initial results on July 13 that centered on aerosol pathways from a soprano singer and subjects playing four different musical instruments, and the second results on August 18 that investigated aerosol from additional singers and instruments, as well as theatre performers. (To view past preliminary results and additional resources related to the aerosol study, use the following link: )

Led by research teams at the University of Colorado and the University of Maryland, the third set of results also determined that singers produce aerosol at similar rates as woodwinds and brass. The amount of aerosol dispersed by singers varies depending on consonants, vowels, intensity and pitch. In addition, singers wearing a well-fitted, three-layer, surgical-style mask have a reduced release of aerosol.

The researchers also addressed face shields and plexiglass partitions in the latest data. Among the findings were that face shields are only effective at close range to stop large droplets and do not prevent aerosol from being inhaled or released unless a mask is also worn. In addition, plexiglass partitions or barriers between musicians are not recommended due to HVAC system design limitations in rooms. The experts indicated a concern for aerosol build-up when plexiglass barriers are used.

In addition to these new findings, the third set of results reinforced several crucial elements from the earlier releases. First and foremost, masks must be worn at all times, and multi-layered bell covers must be used by all wind instruments. Regarding masks, the best-case scenario would be no gaps in the mask, nose covered and tight enough around the edges that an outline appears when it is removed.

The bell covers for woodwinds and brass should be made with a multi-layer cover with the center layer being made of MERV-13 filter material, or a three-layer, surgical-style mask using a standard such as GB/T32310.

As was noted in the previous release, the optimum area for rehearsals is outdoors, with the use of masks and proper distancing between participants. As events move indoors this winter, the researchers recommended an indoor setting with an elevated outdoor air exchange rate from HVAC as the best alternative.

Another highlight of the third round of results were the more fully developed five principal takeaways related to masks, distance, time, air flow and hygiene. Following is a breakdown of these five key areas:

  • Masks – Masks should be worn by students, and masks/bell covers should be on instruments and materials.
  • Distance – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) distancing guidelines of 6 feet by 6 feet should be followed, with additional space (9 feet by 6 feet) for trombone players. The distancing guidelines apply for outdoors as well as indoors.
  • Time – Rehearsals should be limited to 30 minutes. Indoors, the room should be cleared, and leaders should wait until at least one HVAC air change has occurred before the next rehearsal.
  • Air Flow – Outdoor activity remains the best place for air flow. Indoors, HEPA filters are strongly recommended to increase the amount of clean air and the number of air changes per hour (ACH).
  • Hygiene – The strong emphasis continues on hygiene, including frequent handwashing, and cleaning of spit valves and storage areas.

You can read the full report here: Written Report of Data and the press release here: NFHS Press Release on 3rd Round of Data

Here are some useful videos which will help you to understand the results of this study: 

Video Conversation of Results (with Lead Researchers and Co-Chairs)

Let’s Talk About Transmission -created by Dr. Miller and Dr. Vance

We will of course keep you updated on this study and its implications on performing, practicing and playing music.