COVID-19 Performing Arts Aerosol Study

ASTA is part of a coalition of over 125 performing arts organizations which commissioned a study on aerosol rates produced by activities in music, speech, debate, and theatre. Since summer 2020, researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Maryland have been hard at work gathering preliminary results.

Preliminary Results

Disclaimer: All information provided through the study is to be used strictly for general consideration. The information will be updated when new data becomes available. When sharing this information, please use the web link for the latest information.

  • Music Program COVID Check-In Survey #2: The purpose of the survey is to identify and track how music programs across the United States have been impacted during the COVID pandemic. Participation in this survey will provide valuable, timely insights that will help inform ways to better support music programs. To be eligible to complete the survey, you must have taught or directed a K-12 or collegiate music program in the United States from August 1 to December 15, 2021. The survey should take only about five minutes to complete.

  • Updated guidance on mitigations for music activities was released February 10, 2022. These suggestions are meant to provide some best practices as we continue to move into new phases in the pandemic. View the recorded webinar.

  • It's OK to Play Music infographic released November 8, 2021.

  • conversation on mitigations for fall 2021 (for music, theatre, speech, debate, and more) released August 27, 2021, and a new published paper (on aerosol released while singing and playing wind instruments) released August 31, 2021, as the aerosol study continues.

  • Updated guidance for fall 2021 music activities released July 16, 2021. These suggestions are meant to provide some best practices, including guidance on masks, rehearsal times, physical distancing, and hygiene

  • Risk assessment report released June 23, 2021: A survey was conducted in April and May 2021 to assess the level of spread events that occurred in school-based music programs in the 2020-2021 academic year.

  • New mitigation videos released April 30, 2021, including COVID-19 Mitigation Strategies for String Instruments

  • Scientific study prepress paper released April 15, 2021: A preprint of the research paper “Measurements and Simulations of Aerosol Released while Singing and Playing Wind Instruments” based on the aerosol study is now available to the public while it is being peer reviewed for scientific publication.

  • The third release of preliminary results was shared November 13, 2020.

    The third round of preliminary results produced more scientific data to help inform music and arts activities. Among the key findings—which focused on the distribution of respiratory aerosol generated while playing wind instruments, singing, acting, speaking, and dancing—were 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 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 buildup when plexiglass barriers are used.

    Get more information on complete results including informational videos:
      -  Let’s Talk About Transmission
      -  Video Conversation of Results (with lead researchers and co-chairs)

  • The second release of preliminary results was shared August 6, 2020.

    Preliminary research results on aerosol rates produced by wind instrumentalists and vocalists. We know that many of our members support symphonic orchestra, as well as interact with students and colleagues in the band and choir community. Many of you may share rehearsal spaces with band and choir colleagues, so understanding their challenges when returning to school is important so that we may work together to resume classes.

    Preliminary results show that wind instruments and singing produce varying amounts of aerosol, more than speaking, and that this increase in aerosol may contribute to the spread of the coronavirus. These results are preliminary and information may change.

    However, results were released to support teachers in their planning to return to school. For more information about the results, you may access the preliminary report.

    General Recommendations

    Students and teachers should wear well-fitting masks. Wind players should use a mask that has a slit through which they may place the mouthpiece. For both wind players and singers, masks helped considerably to reduce aerosol emission in these preliminary studies.

    Wind players should explore using bell coverings. The majority of aerosol was produced from the bell of instruments and bell coverings were effective in reducing the spread of aerosol.

    Maintain 6-foot distance per CDC guidelines, with 9 x 6 feet of distance for trombone players to accommodate for the extended slide positions.

    Limit rehearsals to 30 minutes and clear the room for a minimum of one Air Change Rate Per Hour (ACH) before the next rehearsal.

    Outdoors is the safest way to interact. Masks are still strongly encouraged even when rehearsing outdoors. HEPA filters may also help if room size, air volume, and ACH is considered.

    Brass players should use an absorbent disposable material to catch condensation, such as a “puppy pad,” and these should be disposed of immediately following the 30-minute rehearsal.

    These recommendations, along with CDC recommendations on hygiene, reducing numbers of people gathered together, and wearing well-fitting masks will help reduce risk. Remember to always check with your school district and follow local and state guidelines.

  • Preliminary results for woodwinds and brass were released July 13, 2020. Go to the main coalition page for a PDF presentation with preliminary results and general considerations.

    The PDF includes general considerations that are useful for all music programs, including strings. The information includes use of masks, classroom setup, teacher safety, and more.

We encourage you to share the preliminary study results with your colleagues and schools.

Additional ASTA COVID-19 resources, including ASTA guides on navigating online, face-to-face, and hybrid instructional situations in the classroom and studio, can be found here


It is important to understand the risks of COVID-19 in performing arts settings. Although not yet proven, strong anecdotal evidence suggests that the COVID-19 virus can travel in the microscopic droplets expelled from a person with the virus, even when asymptomatic. The only way to determine what risk level exists or to create best practices for reducing infection risk is to understand how aerosol disbursement works in a performing arts setting.

Once the aerosol rates are better understood, the study will focus on remediation of aerosols in confined spaces like rehearsal rooms (both educational and professional), classrooms, and performance settings in order to develop better understanding, policy, and practice for the safe return to performance and education.