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Palen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, February 14, 2011

 

The PMC Quick Note is part of our mission to support the lives of band directors across the Midwest. The Quick Note contains helpful tips and suggestions from area directors, spotlights on area college and university band programs, calendars of upcoming events, advocacy articles promoting music education, links to helpful web resources, and much more.  Comments, suggestions, ideas, and articles are always welcome.

 

Looking for help on a particular topic? Be sure to check out our Quick Note Catalog of back issues!


Happy Valentines Day from Palen Music Center!


Playing Trombone Dangerous To Your Health
Editor's Note: Although the dramatic title was intended to get your attention, playing an instrument that has not been cleaned in a significant amount of time can indeed be harmful to your health. This excellent article from the NPR website outlines some of the issues surrounding bacteria in brass instruments. In conjunction with this article, Palen Music is offering a cleaning special on any student-owned brass instruments. Bring into any PMC location, or send in with the road representative, and we will do a comprehensive chemical cleaning of the instrument and mouthpiece for $40. Dent work, slide adjustments, and larger brass instruments are extra. Offer ends March 31st. Print this coupon to accompany the repair to take advantage of this special offer. Click to view the original article on the NPR website.

Think Music Heals? Trombone Player Begs To Differ by Diane Orson

Each day, thousands of music students head to band practice with their trumpets, trombones and saxophones. But they may want to pay a bit more attention to the way they clean out their instruments when rehearsal is over. One musician in Connecticut learned the hard way about the dangers of not cleaning his horn — after he developed a condition that's being called "trombone players' lung."

Scott Bean spends hours each day performing, practicing and teaching the trombone. But for years, Bean struggled with health problems that made it hard to play his instrument.

"I coughed. I had a horrible deep barking cough — especially when I played trombone. I had a sore throat, lost 60 pounds at a time, had a low-grade fever," he says. "It was a huge hindrance."

The Stuff Inside

Doctors thought Bean had asthma, but none of the usual therapies worked. After 15 years, Bean went on vacation for the first time without his trombone — and felt better. He began to wonder if the instrument could be making him sick.

A doctor at the University of Connecticut took a culture from inside his horn.

"Then he calls me up and says, 'Scott, we know what's in your trombone,'" Bean says.

It was a mold called fusarium, says Mark Metersky, a professor at the University of Connecticut Medical School's division of pulmonary and critical care.

"He also grew a type of bacteria called a mycobacterium, sort of a cousin of tuberculosis," Metersky says.

This stuff inside the trombone was causing an allergic reaction, which led to hypersensitivity pneumonitis, a severe inflammation of the lungs. Microscopic organisms were breaking off and getting into Bean's lungs each time he inhaled.

Bean admits brass players are often lax about cleaning their horns.

"You talk about cleaning out your instrument, and they laugh and make some funny remark about it," he says. "I never cleaned out my trombone — maybe once every other year. We never clean it out."

Not Alone

Mold and bacteria could grow in any brass instrument. And for most players, it wouldn't matter much, except maybe aesthetically. But for a subset of people who react to these organisms, it's no joke. Metersky set out to see how common a problem it was. He asked several professional musicians if he could culture the insides of their trombones and trumpets for a pilot study.

"Things plopped out," Metersky says. "It was disgusting. Imagine the worst thing you've found in your refrigerator in food that you've left for a few months, and that was coming out of these instruments."

Metersky stopped testing after 10 instruments, because they all were contaminated. His findings are published in this month's issue of the pulmonary journal Chest. There's also a separate case report on hypersensitivity pneumonitis from a contaminated saxophone.

Overlooked Connection

Doctors have known about this disease for a while, but Cecile Rose, a hypersensitivity pneumonitis expert at National Jewish Health in Colorado, says no one has ever thought to connect it to musical instruments.

"I think it probably hasn't been figured out because doctors don't ask the right questions," Rose says, "and because this disease has symptoms that are identical to symptoms of more common diseases."

Now Bean is diligent about cleaning out his trombone. "I use a rod with a cloth and use alcohol — rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol — pour it down, and it cleans out the germs," Bean says.

And he finds playing his horn a lot easier.

Click to view this article on the NPR website. Print a copy of the $40 Brass Service coupon.


Contact Your Local Palen Music Center Representative

 

Can we assist you with anything?  Please contact your local Palen Music Center school road representative for all of your music education needs.

 

Springfield Bob Hopkins, Wayne Blades, Brett Palen, Eric Matzat, Jason Moore, and Paul Bowen (417) 882-7000
Columbia Jake Herzog (573) 256-5555
Liberty Ken Crisp and Harlan Moore (816) 792-8301
Joplin Dave Coble (417) 781-3100
Broken Arrow Mark VanVranken and Bryan Snyder (918) 770-6827

 

If you would like to submit material, make corrections, give comments, or wish to be removed from this mailing list, please contact Eric Matzat.  

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