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TCNJ performing arts program leverages hard science to welcome back students

trumpet students rehearsing on stage in empty theater
Trumpet students from TCNJ Wind Ensemble rehearse with Eric Laprade.

In preparation for the return to on-site instruction this semester, TCNJ’s School of the Arts and Communication collaborated with a college-wide initiative to conduct a two-part indoor space review to ensure the safety of all students despite some specific challenges for those in the music department.

The first analysis was an indoor air quality examination performed by Entech Engineering to assess high-risk spaces and develop strategies to mitigate transmission. The subsequent airflow testing conducted by Horizon Engineering Associates verified that outdoor air provided to building spaces met American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers COVID-19 guidance. Both steps addressed Kendall Hall performance spaces, the largest on campus, and the Music Building housing Mayo Concert Hall.

“The college’s goal in performing airborne infection risk calculations was to implement strategies to help mitigate both infection risk and transmission rate,” says Campus Engineer David Matlack. “Recirculation is the concern. Whether singing or playing an instrument, music students emit aerosols,” adds Richard Kroth, Director of Operations for TCNJ’s Center for the Arts.

This two-part infrastructural study informs learning and scheduling reforms. “From the outset of the pandemic, we had to redefine the music education experience,” says Director of Bands and Assistant Professor of Music Eric Laprade. “Though logistics of creating safe performance spaces were challenging to navigate, the opportunity to make music together again was well-worth the meticulous planning,” explains Chair of the Department of Music, Coordinator of Music Education and Associate Professor Colleen Sears.

In addition to providing masks specialized for music performance, chairs and music stands are distanced beyond six-feet apart, indicated by taped sections on the floor. Surfaces are sanitized between use, and practices are limited to 35 minutes to allow air flushing.

The School of the Arts and Communication Dean Maurice Hall says, “We are committed to making TCNJ one of the safest colleges in the U.S.”

— Julia Meehan ’22


School of the Arts and Communication
Art and Interactive Multimedia Building
The College of New Jersey
P.O. Box 7718
2000 Pennington Rd.
Ewing, NJ 08628