Eastman COVID update for ESM faculty and staff, August 18

August 19, 2021

Dear friends,

With the recent decision by the University to reinstate the face-masking requirement for all individuals regardless of vaccination status, we are also going to update our music-making protocols as we start the new academic year.  These new protocols go into effect immediately and will be in place until further notice.

For information about the general face-masking requirement, please see the most recent announcement from the University here.  These rules apply to students, employees, and visitors in all our classrooms, as well as in dining, residential life, and other public spaces on campus.  It is important to note that this revised policy differs from policies in place during the last academic year in that physical distancing is not currently part of the requirement.  As part of the new mandate, the following rules will apply to music making at the Eastman School of Music:

Physical Distancing

  • There is no physical distancing requirement for musicians who play a non-aerosol producing instrument (strings, percussion, and keyboard instruments), regardless of vaccination status.
  • There is no physical distancing requirement for vaccinated musicians who play an aerosol producing instrument (brass, woodwinds, and voice).
  • Unvaccinated musicians who play an aerosol producing instrument must be distanced at least 6’ from others at all times.


  • All members of an ensemble or chamber music group must wear a mask and, if appropriate, a bell cover.  Musicians who play a wind instrument will be expected to cut a small slit in their mask to allow for their mouthpiece, but this slit must be modest so that the majority of the mask is left intact.  The sides of the mouth and chin must remain covered by the mask at all times.
  • The conductor/coach of an ensemble may be unmasked when leading rehearsals as long as they remain 6’ away from all members of the ensemble.  If the layout of the room prevents the conductor/coach from maintaining appropriate distance then a mask must be worn.  We will not be able to accommodate requests for a new room assignment solely to meet this requirement.
  • For performances and dress rehearsals ONLY, a vaccinated musician may be unmasked in the following situations:

o   The musician is performing alone on stage,

o   The musician is performing on stage with a pianist (the pianist must be masked and the soloist must be at least 6’ away), or

o   The musician is a soloist with an ensemble (the ensemble members must be masked and the soloist must be at least 6’ away).

Private Lessons

  • In an applied lesson, a vaccinated teacher may remove their mask as long as 6’ of distance can be maintained from the student(s) in the room.  We will not be able to accommodate requests for a new room assignment solely to meet this requirement.  Students must leave their mask in place at all times.

Practice Rooms

  • We will revert to our pre-COVID practice room policies for all students.  When alone in a room, fully vaccinated students may remove their mask when practicing.  However, students with an approved exemption to the University’s vaccine requirement must leave their mask on at all times – even when practicing alone in a room.  Additionally, unvaccinated woodwind and brass students must leave their bell covers on as well while practicing.

There are no other restrictions on music-making at this time.  As we have done since the start of the pandemic, our guidelines will continue to be informed by and subject to change based on information from the University’s medical experts, the current state of COVID-19 on campus, any additional state and federal guidelines, as well as the commitment to the University community’s health and safety.

Finally, while we understand many faculty are understandably nervous about the upcoming academic year, we want to reiterate the University’s position that faculty do not have the authority to unilaterally move their entire course online in lieu of teaching in person.  This is not an individual decision, but rather a decision that must be made at the school level, so faculty must contact Academic Affairs for approval before moving a course fully online.

Thank you again for your continued flexibility as we work to successfully launch the 2021-2022 academic year.  As always, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to reach out to one of us.


John and Donna