COVID-19 security considerations muted in-person band packages for an extended stretch of 2020, however one CU Boulder alumna might have crafted the answer to deliver them again.
Maddie Levinson, who introduces herself as “the seamstress for the band,” graduated from CU Boulder in 2008 with a Masters in Music. Now, she’s a contract French horn musician and music trainer who runs a stitching enterprise out of her house in Northglenn, CO.
As analysis emerged exhibiting wind and brass devices might produce COVID-19-laden aerosols, Levinson began stitching COVID-friendly French horn covers for college band packages throughout the state.
“My mom and grandmother taught me easy methods to sew and I simply by no means stopped,” Levinson mentioned.
Levinson has sewn merchandise for bands, fireplace departments, material outlets and medical provide shops, however her enterprise switched gears when the pandemic hit the US earlier this yr.
“A number of the children I train informed me their faculty’s band packages have been fully cancelled, and that people who did have band needed to accept recording tasks, damaged up rehearsals and last-minute livestream concert events,” Levinson mentioned. “It’s taken numerous the enjoyment out of music for youths”
Levinson began creating face masks with small mouth openings that enable musicians to entry their instrument’s mouth items whereas nonetheless protecting their noses—an invention she cleverly calls “brass masks.”
Levinson despatched her brass masks to 10 colleges, together with a center faculty in Steamboat Springs.
“Their band was enjoying exterior within the parking zone, however my masks allowed them to go inside, sit down and rehearse collectively,” she mentioned.
Because the pandemic cast on, so did analysis on the transmission of COVID-19.
Levinson reached out to college students who took half in CU’s Performing Arts Aerosol Study, led by Shelly Miller, a professor of mechanical engineering who research how the novel coronavirus can unfold by way of the air.
Miller’s examine checked out what could possibly be accomplished to make wind instrument rehearsals and efficiency areas safer.
Among the many suggestions, Miller advised musicians use a fitted cowl on the bells of their devices with a number of layers of fabric to forestall tiny droplets of liquid from escaping the instrument.
A easy round cowl for devices just like the trumpet or saxophone was a straightforward ask for a life-long seamstress like Levinson.
Nevertheless, on the subject of the French horn, which requires the musician to put their hand contained in the bell of the instrument, the duty turns into trickier.
Levinson searched the net to see what was already being provided for horn gamers.
One firm was promoting very costly, thick-lined covers that included an extended sleeve that went as much as the elbow.
“It was kinda ridiculous trying,” Levinson mentioned.
That product used aerosol combatting cloth, but it surely considerably affected the sound of the devices, based on musicians who examined it.
Levinson thought she might present one thing higher.
She used a nylon blended cloth for her first draft, which did one of the best at containing aerosols when examined in Miller’s examine.
Just like the brass masks, the horn cowl had a small opening for musicians to put their fingers contained in the bell. The participant’s arm acts as a plug within the cowl, minimizing the chance of aerosol unfold.
Michael Thronton, a professor in CU Boulder’s Horn Studio, labored with Levinson to check the merchandise and supply suggestions.
“After collaborating with Mike, he was involved in regards to the distortion of the sound, so I shortly tinkered with the design and got here up with one other mannequin the subsequent day,” Levinson mentioned.
Levinson’s second try—a design she calls the “sport mannequin”—was sewn with half-moon patches in a approach that allowed for double-layer safety and entry to the bell with out affecting the sound.
Thornton mentioned Levinson’s covers have been much better than the industrial covers he’s explored.
“She’s accomplished an important job of making a accountable and secure bell cowl that has minimal affect on sound manufacturing,” Thornton mentioned.
Thornton ordered 20 horn covers for his studio.
The studio hasn’t but had the chance to rehearse with the covers as a bunch this semester. However the masks have been used for smaller competitions, recitals, horn juries and smaller chamber music performances.
“As the college yr progresses, and we discover out extra in regards to the future, we will definitely be ordering extra covers for future performers if required,” Thornton mentioned.
Bringing again the enjoyment
For the reason that pandemic started, Levinson has sewn over 1,300 masks and instrument covers–in many instances donating them to communities in want.
She hopes her contribution to the COVID-19 effort will deliver band packages again to varsities.
As a life-long French Horn participant, Levinson’s mission is private.
“Music was my savior rising up. If that was taken from me I don’t know if I’d’ve survived,” Levinson mentioned. “So many children are being robbed by this pandemic. If there’s something I can do to deliver pleasure again to musicians, I’m on it.”
Should you’re all for ordering Levinson’s brass masks or horn covers, please e-mail requests here.