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Musicians mask up their instruments

Swatches | December 1, 2020 | By:

Brass and woodwind instruments release aerosols out of the keyholes and ends of the instrument, and some instruments release spit out of spit valves, creating a large potential for the spread of COVID-19. University of Minnesota musicians are using special instrument masks to prevent this. Gopher Photo.

The pandemic has left stages empty, and for many musicians, even practicing as a group is difficult. Instrumental ensembles in particular face a tough challenge: the aerosols generated when playing woodwind and brass instruments make it difficult to meet in person without proper protections.

Gopher Photo

Betsy McCann, director of marching and athletic bands at the University of Minnesota, explains that the school’s marching band is usually able to play outside and writes drill charts to properly social distance. However, the band’s 320 students, most of whom play woodwind and brass instruments, are physically working hard when playing, adding to aerosol production. 

These facts led the university’s School of Music and a Minnesota-based instrument case manufacturer, Torpedo Bags Inc., to devise a creative solution: instrument “masks.”

School of Music facilities and operations manager Peter Remiger reached out to Torpedo Bags after seeing a news article about the instrument bag maker. Like many end product manufacturers in the specialty fabrics industry, Torpedo Bags had shifted its focus from instrument cases to masks in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company has been making gig bags and cases for 20 years. 

University of Minnesota School of Music.

“Much of what we make are leather bags, which are very difficult,” said company president Steve Kriesel in a press release. “The bell covers and instrument covers are quite simple in comparison, although I did have to buy a third serger machine to crank these out.” 

Kriesel hopes that the bags and masks will allow for somewhat normal rehearsal sessions. He notes that he is a musician and educator himself, and recognizes the importance of music for childhood brain development, even well into young adulthood. For more, visit

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