Campus policy on music making during COVID

Singing and the playing of brass and woodwind instruments generates aerosol particles smaller than respiratory droplets, in some cases at a much greater level than speaking or normal breathing. Aerosol particles are invisible and may be infectious. Numerous cases of COVID transmission have been traced to choir rehearsals and large-group singing, where singers exhale and inhale deeply to sing, often at close quarters in poorly ventilated rooms. (In one case in Washington, 32 confirmed and 20 probable secondary COVID-19 cases occurred after a 2.5 hour, 61-person choir rehearsal.)

Until the risk of music-related transmission can be dramatically reduced, the university will not permit group singing or playing of wind instruments in any group context on campus. This includes in classes, chapel services, student life events, and informal gatherings. Wind instruments are defined as any instrument you blow into. Students may only sing or play wind instruments when alone, such as in a dorm or outside. Music department ensemble members may use the Ross Center practice rooms. Instruments that can be used while wearing masks, such as guitar, piano, or violin are welcome on campus as long as group size does not exceed four instrumentalists, and social distancing and mask requirements are met.

This policy will be revisited as risk-mitigation methods for musicians are developed and researched, but it has not yet been determined how to make group singing or ensemble performance safe. Results from these studies are expected to be released late in the fall. As our understanding of COVID-19 evolves, so will our policies. Flexibility and understanding is going to be critical as we navigate this new landscape together. 

A Note about Worship: George Fox University is a Christ-centered university that values and encourages individual and corporate worship of our creator and savior. We recognize the university’s temporary COVID-19 music policy will be difficult for our community. While we know corporate singing and group instrumental music are deeply meaningful expressions of faith, we are asking our community to temporarily sacrifice for the good of the community. There are many other forms of Christian worship that do not endanger our brothers and sisters. Poetry, scripture reading, silent worship, art, dance, and instrumental music all can have significant spiritual value, as can private devotional singing.