Performing artists are undoubtedly struggling these last six months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is no different for the Department of Music in the College of Liberal Arts, which has been stressed to meet performance demands, provide virtual learning opportunities for students and keep everyone on the University of Nevada, Reno campus safe. Fortunately, thanks to a donation from an air purification company, the Department of Music is able to safely rehearse and perform together in person and on campus.
Originally caught off guard last spring when remote operations commenced, the Department of Music quickly created safety protocols to effectively practice and perform. The department follows 10 feet of separation at all times while performing, requires the use of bell covers over horn and wind instruments, enforces mask wearing, and reduced the number of sectional ensembles.
“We had to drastically reevaluate everything we do and discovered a lot of activities that we do, had to be reimagined – from scheduling of rehearsal spaces, availability of practice rooms, to inability to perform, moving to digital lesson delivery and the like,” Dmitri Atapine, department chair and professor of music and cello, said.
Just when the department believed they had thought of everything to keep faculty and students as safe as possible while practicing and performing, the start of the fall semester rushed in with heavy smoke from nearby wildfires. At times, the smoke was so thick and the air quality was deemed hazardous or too poor to practice and rehearse outside. The department was faced yet again, with another challenge.
Molekule, an air purification company based out of San Francisco, California, took note of the situation in the Department of Music and decided to help. Molekule donated 30 air filtration units to the department so that faculty and students could practice indoors more safely.
Molekule uses photocatalysis technology to destroy pollutants. The air filter is coated in a substance that activates with LED lights on the inside of the device and creates a reaction on the surface of the filter. This reaction oxides organic material in the air. Particles like bacteria, viruses, allergens, chemicals (including volatile organic compounds) and more, are destroyed at the molecular level.
Senior Copywriter at Molekule, Roberto Curtis, has been long-time friends with Assistant Professor of Jazz Trumpet Josh Reed.
“When Josh told me how Reno’s COVID-19 numbers were looking, and that the music department was doing research into indoor airflow and mitigating the spread of bioaerosols, we began chatting about how Molekule could help professors and students,” Curtis said. “Just days later, Reno was blanketed with smoke. I knew the music department was going to be impacted even further.”
Although everything has changed in how the Department of Music operates, moving into the digital realm has given faculty new skills that they hope to continue to use. Atapine said he hopes the new technology skills will add to their abilities as performers and artists.
“For our string, piano and percussion faculty, the air filters from Molekule have given us the chance to have a safer office environment to teach lessons both in person and virtually,” Reed said. “For our wind instructors, it has given us a safe space to hold our virtual lessons with the amount of smoke we have had in the air.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely impacted the entire community and the performing arts have suffered a particularly devastating blow. With in-person performances and exhibitions being canceled for the foreseeable future, the performance halls have lost a critical revenue source.