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School of Music

Spring 2021 School of Music COVID-19 Policies, Guidelines and Q&A

School of Music COVID-19 Policy Guidelines for Faculty, Staff and Students
Updated 01/12/2021

Certain musical endeavors, such as singing, and the playing of woodwind and brass instruments have been identified as activities in which larger numbers of aerosol particles are generated. For this reason, the School of Music has consulted experts in the fields of medicine and occupational safety to develop guidelines designed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Many of the questions raised by faculty, staff and students are answered in the following FAQ.

General Information

Yes. Face masks must be worn on the University of South Carolina campus at all times. Within the School of Music, the only exceptions to the University’s mandated face covering policy are in relation to music making (woodwinds, brass, voice) when masks may be temporarily removed. In these situations, only the students or faculty who are required to sing/play may choose to remove their masks with proper spacing, protective barriers and other pre-established precautions in place.

With your help! Success in maintaining a healthy environment for study and music making is dependent on the accountability of each member to protect the School of Music community. This document addresses measures that have been established to help prevent the spread of infection, but students, faculty, and staff should only come to the School of Music or participate in School activities if they are asymptomatic.  Faculty, staff and students are encouraged to make a commitment to keep the University of South Carolina community in good health by taking part in "I pledge Columbia."

More information on campus safety and the University's Risk Mitigation Plan.


In response to the challenges of COVID, enhanced cleaning procedures have been established. The School of Music custodial team is giving special attention to high-risk/high-touch areas including door handles, light switches, handrails, interior doors, door push plates, elevator buttons, etc. Staff has been added and crews have been trained in the sanitation of workplace, office and classroom surfaces. In addition to following the daily cleaning protocol, custodial services has increased the frequency of cleaning restrooms and other common areas. Hand sanitizer dispensers have also been placed in strategic locations throughout the building.

University Facilities has been working with the School of Music to ensure that the HVAC high MERV equipped filtration system is functioning properly and successfully removing potentially harmful airborne particles. Teaching spaces approved for aerosol-producing instrumental and vocal lessons are equipped with a physician recommended air purifier containing a HEPA filter.

Yes. In addition to hand sanitizer dispensers that are placed around the building, students have access to cleaning stations consisting of a paper towel dispenser and disinfectant spray designed for keyboards, door handles and music stands.

Specific practice rooms in the School of Music basement have been identified where aerosol-producing practice (woodwinds, brass and voice) can be carried out in a safe environment. Rooms identified as aerosol-producing practice spaces have been equipped with an approved HEPA-filter air purifier which provides “air scrubbing” after each 1-hour session of practice. Students must follow posted rules requiring a 30-minute practice room vacancy between sessions in order to promote the recirculation of air. Masks are not required when using a practice room reserved for aerosol producers, but are required in rooms identified for use by non-aerosol producers (piano, strings and percussion). Only one student at a time is allowed in a practice room. It is imperative that these procedures be followed for safety and contact tracing purposes.

Eight (8) practice rooms in the String Project Building are available Monday through Friday for STRING STUDENTS ONLY. String students may also sign up for times in the SOM practice rooms, but are encouraged to practice in the SPB when possible to help alleviate space issues caused by the mandatory 30-minute room vacancies in the School of Music building practice rooms. Specific availability of these rooms is posted in the practice room sign-up link.

PIANO STUDENTS in the DMA degree may sign up for practice time in SPB rooms 206 and 220, both of which have grand pianos. Specific availability of these rooms is posted in the practice room sign-up link.

Piano students also have access to rooms 012, 017, 201 and 210 in the SOM building. Please consult the piano faculty for availability and scheduling.

Practice rooms may be reserved online here.

Details on practice room procedures are outlined on the School of Music website and posted in the practice room area.

Face-to-Face, Online, and/or Blended Instruction

Lessons and other one-on-one activities are taking place online as well as in School of Music studios and classrooms. Where in-person instruction occurs, large (4’ x 8’) clear barriers and air purifiers have been placed to protect students and faculty. Much applied instruction has been moved to larger rooms in the School of Music and the Koger Auditorium complex.

  • Aerosol-producing lessons (woodwinds, brass and voice) taught face-to-face in an indoor space must be limited to 30 minutes.
  • Aerosol-producing applied lessons lasting 60 minutes must be conducted virtually or in an outdoor space.
  • 30 minutes of room vacancy for air-scrubbing / recirculation is required after any aerosol-producing activity.

Teaching spaces approved for aerosol-producing instrumental and vocal lessons are equipped with a physician recommended air purifier containing a HEPA filter. In an outdoor or approved indoor teaching space, only the student may have their mask removed and only when singing or playing their instrument; teachers will remain masked during lessons. Distancing of at least 10 feet should be maintained.

Faculty/students are responsible for cleaning keyboards, music stands, chairs and other touched surfaces before and after lessons.

  • Lessons may be up to 60 minutes in length
  • Masks are required for teacher and student.
  • Students and faculty must remain on opposite sides of vinyl barriers to insure physical distancing of at least 6 feet. If piano accompaniment is needed, the pianist must wear a mask and appropriate physical distancing from faculty member and student must be maintained.

Faculty/students are responsible for cleaning keyboards, music stands, chairs and other touched surfaces before and after lessons. Specific guidelines for cleaning piano keys have been developed. These guidelines are posted on cleaning stations throughout the School of Music and are designed for the safety of pianists and the protection of keyboard instruments.

Six (6) rooms in the Koger Center Dressing room area are reserved for students to use for online applied lessons. The availability of these six rooms may be viewed at the Practice room sign-up link. Students may receive their applied lessons from additional spaces, including apartments, practice rooms, etc. All aerosol and non-aerosol producing rules apply to practice rooms in the Koger center.

Minimum 6-ft. distancing is required in classroom spaces, including common areas. Based on university guidelines, the maximum capacity of each instructional space has been determined and chairs, tables and desks have been arranged to ensure safety. Furniture in rooms should not be moved.  Masks are to be worn at all times. Congregating before and after classes and rehearsals is prohibited. Faculty are requested to dismiss classes and ensembles in groups to minimize congregating, instructing students to exit in an orderly fashion (i.e. those closest to the door exit first). More information on ensembles below.

 All instrumentalists and vocalists majoring in music or on a scholarship or assistantship must register for the appropriate major ensemble - Symphony Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Winds, Jazz Ensemble, Concert Choir, or University Chorus. 

During the Spring semester, students have the choice of participating in an in-person orchestra or taking orchestra online. The in-person orchestra will meet during regular orchestra time (Mondays 2:30-5:30 and Wednesdays 2:30-4:30) and will present 3 livestream concerts from the Koger Center stage. The in-person orchestra will comply with all university and School of Music COVID protocols. Professor Neil Casey is the instructor/conductor of the in-person section. 

The online section of orchestra will be fully online and will meet on Mondays and Wednesdays 3:00-4:00. The course is a project-based orchestral repertoire class. The instructor for this section will be Scott Weiss.

It is expected that all musicians observe general safety guidelines in their daily lives and avoid high-risk situations and behaviors. Adhere to masking and distancing guidelines in all situations, avoid gathering in large groups, wash hands frequently, and follow University testing protocols. If you are feeling unwell or showing symptoms of illness, please do not attend rehearsal.

  • Rehearsals will take place in the largest spaces available with proper ventilation and air exchange. Spacing will be 6 feet on all sides, 9 feet for trombones. Straight rows will be used.
  • Room will be set up prior to musicians’ arrival, including chair (if applicable), music stand, and puppy pad. Seating charts will remain consistent and will be saved for potential contact tracing.
  • Musicians should be warmed up as much as possible before entering. There will be no playing until directed, at which time the 30-minute time will begin.
  • Musicians will enter 5 minutes prior to rehearsal through the designated door and will be masked. Sanitize hands upon entering. (In some cases, musicians may be able to enter earlier.)
  • Cases and belongings should be kept at your seat, not stacked in corners or close together along walls. If there is ample space, cases may be stored in another area of the room, always 6 feet apart.
  • Musicians will lay out their own puppy pad. Any water must be emptied from the instrument into the puppy pad. Avoid aggressive blowing out of keys/water.
  • Musicians will wear masks while playing. This can be achieved by using a mask with a slit, moving the mask up to play, or using a musician’s mask. A mask that is moved must be replaced when not playing. A black disposable mask will be provided for concerts (or musician may use their own black mask.)
  • Instructions will be given prior to the tuning note/beginning of playing. Once playing begins, a 30-minute timer will be set. Playing will end when time expires. Please hold questions until the end if possible.
  • When playing ends, instructions/comments may be given. Slit masks should be replaced with standard masks, and instruments should be carefully packed up, avoiding spilling any water. Puppy pad will be carefully gathered and disposed of by the musician.
  • Sanitize hands on the way out of the room and use the exit door indicated. Any space used for rehearsal will sit empty for 30 minutes following the rehearsal to allow proper air exchange.
  • In the event of a positive test, exposure, etc. within a group, University protocols will be followed involving a pause in rehearsals until cleared by University.

Current plans are to hold limited in-person rehearsals in larger spaces with a smaller number of singers. Singers will begin rehearsals online; small groups may attend rehearsals on an assigned rotation after a delayed start to in-person instruction.  To mitigate risk, singers will wear masks at all times. The School of Music has made a thorough study of facility square footage and university physical distancing guidelines will be closely observed. Ensemble members will be spaced a minimum of six feet apart, and will change rooms after 30 minutes of singing. The School of Music will also monitor evolving guidance regarding appropriate distancing and recommended PPE's (personal protective equipment) and adapt rehearsals as needed.  Performances will be pre-recorded and released online.  There are no plans for live audiences.

Current plans for Grad Vocal Ensemble (16 singers) are to hold face-to-face rehearsals, with a minimum of six feet between singers, all wearing masks.  The class will change rooms after 30 minutes of singing. Performances will be live-streamed; no live audiences are planned.

The Men’s and Women’s Choirs will follow this format for their once-a-week rehearsals.  If these ensembles exceed 24 singers, they will divide into two groups that will allow for physical distancing and rehearse for a shorter length of time. The School of Music has made a thorough study of facility square footage and university physical distancing guidelines will be closely observed. Ensemble members will wear masks at all times, they will be spaced a minimum of six feet apart, and will change rooms after 30 minutes of singing. The School of Music will also monitor evolving guidance regarding appropriate distancing and recommended PPE's (personal protective equipment) and adapt rehearsals as needed.  Performances will be pre-recorded and released online.  There are no plans for live audiences.

Performances of Opera RE-MASKED will take place on April 10 & 11 - matinees only.

Rehearsals will begin online and move later to large spaces - either room 040 or the Koger stage, with vinyl shields in place. Opera workshop classes will begin the semester online, shifting to face to face instruction later in the spring.

All University and School of Music safety protocols will be observed with added distance and PPEs as recommended for singers.


If piano accompaniment is needed, faculty and students are encouraged to use pre-recorded tracks or utilize the Disklavier piano in Room 215 (reservations coordinated by the piano faculty). In order to fulfill accompanying duties, GA and scholarship piano students may choose to record the piano accompaniment and provide this for use in practice and/or performance.

Rehearsal obligations may be fulfilled by using large rooms that allow for physical distancing or by reserving the Collaborative Learning Spaces (CLS), video-connected collaborative practice rooms:

Collaborative Learning Spaces (CLS) have been created in order to allow students to work with a musician in another room in real time, thereby avoiding the latency issues which are present during internet-based interactions. These rooms, outfitted with a camera, monitor, microphone and headphone amp, operate on a closed-loop circuit. Personal headphones are needed in order to plug into the 1/4” or 1/8” headphone jacks provided. Adapters are required in order to use headphones with lightning connectors.

The following rooms are paired as Collaborative Learning Spaces (CLS):

            MUSIC 007 and 036 (reserved for rehearsals with Sharon Rattray and Claudio Olivera)
            MUSIC 008 and 037 (open to all students who are working with an accompanist)

A key for collaborative room 008 may be obtained Mon-Fri between the hours of 9-5 from Mike Gibson, facilities supervisor, Room 124.

Reservations may be up to 60 minutes in length and should be coordinated in advance with an accompanist before requesting a reservation. Practice room scheduling.

A mandatory 30-minute room vacancy between reservations will allow for adequate air exchange.  The CLS music stand will need to be cleaned prior to and following use with disinfectant spray and paper towels. These supplies are available at hall cleaning stations.

Pianists are encouraged to partner with other musicians to create recordings that are reflective of expressive goals and personal interpretation. Musicians can conduct and use gestures in lieu of performing/singing to convey musical intent and to facilitate the recording process. It is strongly emphasized that pianists are not required to rehearse or perform with unmasked singers or unmasked woodwind and brass players.

Any piano student who has concerns about fulfilling their duties or is uncomfortable with specific accompanying-related requests can bring this to the attention of the piano faculty for support and assistance.

Recitals / Live Performances / Audiences

Student Degree Recitals
Recitals in indoor venues, including the Recital Hall, will begin at the following times : 4:30, 6:30, 8:30 p.m. (weekdays).

This schedule will allow for a 60-minute break between the end of one hour-long recital period and the beginning of the next to assure that the hall remains vacant for no less than 30 minutes between uses. Scheduled vacancies should not be used for warming up, arranging the stage, etc. There must be no personnel in the hall.

Non-Aerosol Producing Recitals
Recitals for non-aerosol producing performers (strings, percussion, keyboards) in indoor venues, can be up to 60 minutes in length. All non-aerosol producing instrumentalists must wear masks throughout the rehearsal and performance. Exceptions to the mask requirement may only be made in the case of one performer choosing to remain in the hall alone.

Aerosol Producing Recitals
Recitals for aerosol producing performers (woodwinds, brass, voice) in indoor venues, including the Recital Hall, will be limited to 30 minutes. Performers may remove their mask for the performance only. Exceptions to the 30-minute limit may only be made in the case of one performer choosing to remain in the hall alone. The space must remain vacant for no less than 30 minutes between uses.

Aerosol-producing performers who are required to present degree-required recitals of one hour, must work with their primary applied faculty member to determine how to facilitate the second half-hour of the recital.

*Options include but are not limited to:

  1. one 30-minute recital in the hall and one 30-minute recital in an alternate venue on a different date.
  2. a 30-minute recital followed by a second 30-minute performance on the same date in a different venue.
  3. a 30-minute recital in the hall immediately followed by a 30-minute break & a second 30-minute recital.
  4. a 30-minute live performance supplemented by a 30-minute video recording, etc.

*It is important to note that certain options preclude any warm-up or set-up time in the hall.

Dress Rehearsals
Dress rehearsals may be scheduled throughout the day, but must adhere to Aerosol and Non-Aerosol recital guidelines

Recital Hall Fee / Off-Campus Recitals
During the period that COVID-related policies are in force, the following guidelines will apply:
Student recitals performed and/or recorded in either the Recital or Johnson Hall (60-minute total recording time) will incur the recital hall fee. With faculty approval, student recitals may be held off campus or in another on-campus venue. In this case, students will not be subject to the recital fee, but will be responsible for their own recording/livestream. Off-campus degree-required recitals must follow SOM COVID-19 safety guidelines.

Outdoor Performances
Outdoor performances featuring aerosol or non-aerosol producing performers will not be limited in length provided physical distancing guidelines of 6 ft spacing are followed and a five-minute break is taken every 30 minutes.

The School of Music will provide livestreaming of all performances in the Recital Hall and Johnson Performance Hall.


Audiences for indoor recitals will be limited to a maximum of four (4) family members. In addition, the student’s applied teacher and/or recital committee may attend the recital in person or view via live-stream. University masking and physical distancing guidelines must be followed.

There will be no in-person audience members for these events. Performances will be live-streamed only. This was a difficult decision, made in consultation with faculty and industry experts. As the semester progresses, conditions will be reevaluated to determine if it is possible to open our halls to audience members later in the spring.

Outdoor performances may have audiences, provided physical distancing guidelines of 6 feet are observed.


No. The Music Library is open Monday - Friday, 10:00am -1:00pm for circulation only. Printed materials will be available, but must be requested in advance via the website. Books and scores are currently being mailed to faculty and students and the library plans to continue that service. A book drop has been provided so that everyone has a chance to return materials onsite.

Students have the option of studying and/or taking online classes in the following locations:

  1. The Music Technology Center: The (MTC) on the second floor of the School of Music is open for student use from 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. M–F. Only one student at a time may use a computer station.
  2. The Second Floor Lobby of Koger Center: Desks and chairs will be set up in this area for student use from 8:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. M–F.

Yes. The main GA office is located on the 2nd floor of the Music Building. GA's who share this space must develop office schedules that allow for proper 6-ft distancing. GAs must wear masks at all times when using the GA office.

Koger Center Dressing rooms #3 and #4 are available for GAs to teach UofSC classes for the School of Music, as is room 024 in the School of Music. Each of these rooms is equipped with a computer and ethernet connection and two of the rooms have a MIDI keyboard for the purpose of teaching School of Music classes. GA's may sign up for specific teaching times in these rooms through their supervising teacher. The rooms should not be used as personal offices. Please remove personal belongings when leaving the teaching space. Proper cleaning procedures must be followed as outlined for practice room spaces.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.