A few years ago I was talking to my family doctor about my immune system. I was afraid it was crashing because a least once a month I would catch a new bug. During our discussion he asked about my teaching job. Yes, teaching unfortunately puts the teacher and the student in a situation where germs can be spread quickly. At that time I was freely tuning and playing instruments that didn’t belong to me. Not to mention the repair work I was doing on those old worn out instruments that had been handled by who knows who over the years. The doctor recommended I use caution when handling someone’s instrument other than my own. From that day forward I try not to play or tune a student's instrument. When working on used repair work I often wear rubber gloves to prevent the spreading of any germs and it has reduced my sick days.
As we are all faced with the world-wide COVID-19 crisis I thought this would be a great subject and one that nobody is talking about: how to protect you and your family from the unnecessary spread of germs in the music world. So, let’s look into some things I have learned over the many years.
More and more our society is pushing for more products that are antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral. Some also prefer to say STERILE. Our bodies by design of God were not meant to live in a sterile environment. We as children (and if you're from the same generation as me) grew up playing in the dirt, eating bugs, and countless other things. We drank from garden hoses, made mud pies, and shot spitballs in school. As a result of our childhood play, our bodies and immune system became stronger. Keep in mind that total sterility is a brief and short moment. A lesson I learned from my old paramedic days is once a sterile object has been handled or exposed to room air it is no longer to be considered sterile. It will only remain antiseptically clean until used.
Most germs cannot live on a hard surface for a long period of time. Some die simply with exposure to air. However, certain groups of viruses are quite hardy (like coronavirus) can live on metal, wood, or plastic for up to 3 weeks. Musicians must be concerned with their instrument hygiene to prevent the spread of these unwanted germs. Music stores, music teachers, or anyone who comes into contact with exposed strings and equipment are more susceptible to infections from instruments that are not cleaned or maintained properly. The sharing of instruments is a widespread accepted practice in my profession which could very well lead to the sharing of infectious diseases like COVID-19.
So what can each of us do to help stop the spreading of these germs? Online lessons are great...I had to throw that one in there, LOL. However, maintaining good instrument and equipment hygiene is simple and easy.
As we all are facing a long road ahead of us due to the coronavirus and we must work together to help prevent the spread. Follow ALL recommendations of our federal, state, and local officials. Stay home if possible. Wear your protective mask and gloves when you must leave home and wash your hands often to help keep us all safe and well. I hope this post has helped us all realize that germs are everywhere but we all, even musicians, can do their part to prevent the spread and keep us all safe.
Taking Local Music To The World.
As a young child, one of the greatest gifts I would ever receive was the gift of music lessons. I owned my first instrument, a guitar, at the age of five. I was self-taught until the age of 11 when I started taking banjo lessons in Vertress, Kentucky under the wing of a great man and banjo player, Milton Emberton. I learned everything I knew about the guitar on my own and from fellow players and family. It wasn’t until I started banjo lessons that I realized I had been missing out on some valuable knowledge and I had so much more to learn. Music has always been important to me even from an early age. You see, I was an only child growing up and music was how I replaced that empty void of no brothers and sisters in my life. Music soon became my best friend growing up and a lifelong friend as I became an adult. I never dreamed I would become a professional musician or a music teacher one day.
Back then we didn’t have the learning tools available in today's world. I’m sure my mother and dad got really tired buying needles for the record player we owned because I would spend hours trying to hit that one spot on those old vinyl records to hear that one chord or hot lick again. Television was also a great learning tool back then. We could only get three channels on the old black and white but every time I could find a music show my eyes were glued to the screen to learn something new. Yes, many things have changed since then. We now have the technology to learn right under our fingertips on the internet--but is it better? I’m not sure. I still think the greatest musicians come from a background of personal one-on-one teaching from a private instructor. I believe nothing takes the place of learning hands on from someone who has perfected their instrument. Just seeing a song performed up close and personal is so much more gratifying than watching a recorded image on a screen. Let’s look at the reasons I feel personal music lessons excel over being self-taught with books and videos for becoming a skilled musician.