As many of you are aware, this time of year brings illness that may be spread between students as well as lingering with a student. Studies show cleaning your instrument has a great effect on student illness and I would like to encourage students to consider the following information.
In an article of the March/April 2011 issue of the journal General Dentistry, “Evaluation of the Microbial Flora Found in Woodwind and Brass Instruments and Their Potential to Transmit Disease,” researchers tested thirteen instruments, six that had been played within a week and seven that had not been played for a month or more. A total of 117 sites were sampled, and a total of 495 bacterial isolates (a population of bacteria that has been isolated) were found. After eliminating redundancies 295 bacterial isolates were found, along with 58 molds. Mouthpieces and reeds were the most contaminated and were regarded as primary hosts for accumulation of microorganisms. Instrument midpoints and bells also retained microbes in sufficient quantities to affect transmission, expose musicians to toxins, and cause disease. All instruments tested had some form of Staphylococcus, with some being resistant to commonly prescribed antibiotics. *
In order to combat student illness with our musicians we should follow these easy cleaning procedures as a part of our daily routine.
- Clean mouthpiece daily. Dip mouthpiece brush or swab in isopropyl alcohol, and clean thoroughly. Rinse the mouthpiece brush or swab after each use.
- Clean instrument weekly. Dip brass instrument cleaning “snake” in isopropyl alcohol to clean carefully. Brass instruments can be flushed out easily. Either spray or dip woodwind swab in isopropyl alcohol to clean carefully. Use a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol to clean keyholes, spit valves, and hinges. Rinse the snake and swab after each use.
- After any illness, always clean mouthpiece, lead pipe, bocal and instrument. Throw away any reeds that were used during contagious period or used during an illness.
- Wipe out all instrument cases monthly. Every case should be wiped out thoroughly with a cloth or sponge that has been soaked in or sprayed with isopropyl alcohol. Keep case open to let dry completely.
Tubing in the more complex instruments, such as the French horn, requires soaking valve slides and tuning slides in a three-quarters water and one-quarter vinegar solution. Encrusted slides are prime sites for germ infestation and contamination. Do not force the cleaning snake through any slide. Pull it out, and go into the other side as far as possible. Rinse slides, and flush out with the isopropyl alcohol. **
*Olivia W. Gutoff, “Does Your Health Depend on a Clean Instrument?,” Music Educators Journal Vol. 98 No. 2.
**Olivia W. Gutoff, “Music Educators Beware! Music Makes All the Difference; Good Health Makes All the Difference in the World,” Maryland Music Educators Journal (Spring 2011): 24-25, 35.
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