School orchestras replace wind instruments with ukuleles to accommodate post-Covid rules


The harmonious interplay between the wood and brass sections of a school orchestra has long delighted the ears of proud parents who listen intently to the audience.

But junior ensembles will soon strike a different note, as they adapt to the new rules of Covid-19 by incorporating a greater variety of stringed instruments into musical sessions as they are deemed more hygienic.

Schools should take into account the “additional risk of infection” potentially posed by wind instruments and brass instruments when played, suggest guidelines from the Department of Education (DfE).

Thus, in order to resume “musical creation” in person according to the rules, some directors have resorted to purchasing ukuleles for their young musicians to play in small and socially distant groups.

Made up of four strings with a small guitar-like body, it is considered safer than more commonly used orchestral devices such as trumpets and flutes, or class instruments like recorders.

Music stores have reported an increase in demand for ukuleles since the lockdown began, with many children choosing it as a hobby while trapped inside and away from their friends at school .

Now, conductors want to introduce the instrument more widely as part of their music sessions, because they question the near future of the school symphony in its traditional form.

“I have already started tuning the 37 ukuleles that I ordered, now that we can no longer have wind instruments in school ensembles,” said Dr Joanna Allsop, Director of Music at Cargilfield School , in Edinburgh. The telegraph.

“They are something that we can play with and can be cleaned up when used in sets over different years. I think children who have never played it before will be delighted.

“They missed out on playing in a group all last season, so we already have some catching up to do,” she continued.

Dr Allsop conducts a full orchestra, consisting of 35 students, and a separate 24-member junior string ensemble and wind orchestra, in Scotland’s oldest preparatory school, founded in 1873.

Where possible, she is considering outdoor classes in year groups starting in the next term, having spent the last few months organizing virtual music sessions with the children of the house.

Elsewhere, other music directors have expressed doubts about the evidence guiding the government’s guidelines, citing a study by the prestigious Vienna Philharmonic in May.

She concluded that there was no increased risk for musicians playing together in an orchestra as long as they were at least one meter apart.

Russell Crann, the course director of the English Schools’ Orchestra, who is joining an academy in Cheltenham as music manager next month, said: group bubbles- to be able to play wind instruments together from September.

“We hope that by the end of October, we will be able to hold our course and our concert in front of a limited audience. This will allow the students to enjoy the pleasure of making music together.

Positioning students ‘back to back’, avoiding instrument sharing, and limiting group sizes to 15 or less are some of the safety suggestions included in the DfE guidelines for fully reopening schools.

The department will be releasing further safety advice on providing music to the school “shortly”, including orchestras, a source said.

Bridget Whyte, CEO of the UK Association for Music Education, Music Mark, added: “The DfE says it will provide additional advice on making music, which everyone is waiting for. This will hopefully help determine how music will perform in schools again.

“We questioned the number fifteen because that number in a small classroom might be too much, but in a large school hall, that number might be too conservative.”

Does your child play a wind or brass instrument? Will they be unable to do so due to the new Covid-19 rules? Share your experience in the comments section below

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