CSU Aerosol Emissions Study

Update 05.11.21

With most of our testing compete, we have moved into a new phase, which involves the analysis of the vast amounts of data collected from more than 100 participants. The first scientific paper from the CSU study is in preparation, and a NASM/NASD/NAST-hosted webinar will be held on Thursday, May 20 at 2 p.m. EDT. Information and registration information for the webinar is available here.

FROM NASM.org: This session will be led by Professor John Volckens of Colorado State University. Professor Volckens will provide an update on the progress of his ongoing study focused specifically on bioaerosol emissions in the performing arts, including current factual information that this study has brought to clear light, and how an understanding of this information may, should, and will affect our work in the fine and performing arts fields.

Additionally, Professor Volckens will provide an update on ongoing work to understand the efficacy of masks and face-coverings, which are now thought to be a primary means to control the spread of the virus from individuals in close contact.

Given the substantial amount of information available today, Professor Volckens will discuss ways in which arts administrators [and performers] might approach, consider, and determine the completeness and accuracy of information in circulation and that being released at the present time – this to assist arts administrators [and performers] to ensure that they possess and are working with credible information that not only can be expected to have a reasonable shelf life, but also, assist to provide guidance to crafting short- and long-term plans of action.

Update 04.23.21

The third NASM/NAST/NASD hosted webinar focusing on bioaerosols in the performing arts, presented by CSU Professor Dr. John Volckens, will be held on Thursday, May 20 at 12 p.m. MDT. Information about the session and registration information is found at nasm.arts-accredit.org

Update 03.25.21

Thank you all for your support for and/or interest in the CSU study on bioaerosols in the performing arts. We are nearly finished with testing, with dance as the final group being tested during next several weeks. To date, we have tested 99 volunteers, including wind players, singers, actors, dancers, and even bagpipes! Our scientific team is working on the first paper, which is centered on singing. It looks like a third webinar is a possibility in late April or early May.

Information pertaining to the study will be uploaded to this website as it unfolds. Our scientific team has done an amazing job throughout the study, weathering fires, blizzards, and other challenges. We are truly fortunate to have incredible individuals on this team who are committed to helping us find a safe return to the performing arts.

Update 11.16.2020

The scientific and performing arts team at CSU continues to test individuals in each area of specialization, including voice, wind instruments, and acting, and has now reached the halfway point in the goal of testing 100 individuals of varying ages and ability levels.

The National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) will host part two of a multi-part series dedicated to the scientific study of aerosol emissions in the performing arts. This webinar will feature Dr. John Volckens, principal investigator of the CSU study, and will be moderated by Dr. Daniel Goble, director of the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance at CSU.

Dr. Volckens will provide an update on the progress of the ongoing study at CSU focused specifically on bioaerosol emissions, including current factual information which this study has brought to clear light, and how an understanding of this information may, should, and will affect our work in the fine and performing arts fields. Additionally, Professor Volckens will provide an update on his ongoing work to understand the efficacy of masks and face-coverings, which are now thought to be a primary means to control the spread of the virus from individuals in close contact.

Update 08.18.20

The scientific and performing arts team at CSU has completed preliminary work, which included adapting the SET facility for testing musicians, singers, and actors, as well as finalizing study protocols through a range of preliminary tests involving wind playing, speech, and singing. Protocols for dance are forthcoming.  The team began the testing of at least 100 participants last week, including wind players and vocalists of varying ages and ability levels. Participants will be tested using protocols designed to assure constancy within areas of specialization while testing multiple individuals in each area of specialization. Testing protocols will include events with and without mitigation strategies.

The National Association of Schools of Music (NASM ) will be hosting a series of webinars dedicated to solving issues related to COVID-19 this week. Preliminary results of the CSU study will be discussed on Friday, August 21 from 3:30 to 5:00 PM EDT in as session featuring the lead investigators of the CSU, CU, and Maryland studies. If you would like to register for this session, please do so here.

Preliminary data will also be available on this page the following week.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advocates maintaining six feet from others to prevent the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19); however, this is based on expected airborne particles emitted during regular breathing.

Performance artists are more likely to display forced-air breathing (i.e., singing, playing musical instruments or dancing, among other artistic expressions), which is more like sneezing and coughing.  While data is lacking, there is developing consensus that infectious aerosolized particles containing SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 are partly responsible for global spread. According to one recent study, the transmission distance of SARS-CoV-2 may be more than 13 feet (https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.200885).

Unfortunately, many infected individuals do not realize they are infected; and group activities such as choir, dance, acting, or instrument ensembles increase the risk of spread. Solutions are needed to reduce the risk of viral spread during performances and group practice settings.

Headed by a multi-disciplinary team of leading researchers at Colorado State University, this proposal aims to quantify the problem and more importantly, identify mitigating strategies to reduce infectious spread.


Scientific Advisory Board

The Facilities at Colorado State University

SET facility

Environmental Testing (SET) facility

The Powerhouse Energy Campus contains a unique, simulated environmental testing (SET) facility for studying human aerosol emissions and exposures in a clean, versatile environment. The SET facility is one of only a handful like it in the world and has advanced capabilities to measure and analyze aerosolized particles. Data are automatically recorded by a custom-built computer control and data acquisition system. In addition, the Volckens research group houses over $2M in sophisticated aerosol research equipment for the determination of aerosol size, concentration, and chemical composition.


The goal of this research is to reduce the risk of human exposure and co-infection during performing arts events and rehearsals.

The specific objectives of this project are to:

  1. Understand aerosol release and distance traveled during heavy breathing, movement, vocalization (singing & acting), and playing a range of instruments.
  2. Identify solutions to reduce aerosol release and spread while artists perform their craft.
  3. Develop guidance documents that can be used across a range of artistic disciplines


This project will provide a robust, scientifically rigorous dataset to develop solutions addressing aerosol spread during artistic performances. Findings will inform guidelines aimed at reducing risks to artists for use by performing arts national and international governance bodies.

Major Supporters:

Lead Supporters:


Valued Donors:

  • Richard C. and Toni C. Atkinson
  • Susan Baker
  • Lisa Baldwin
  • Eleanor D. Barrett and Margaret E. Cottam
  • William and Stephanie Barth
  • David Betz and Lynn Scott
  • Douglas Boyer
  • Aubree Brasser
  • Myra Brown
  • Beatrice Chetard
  • Jennifer Clippert
  • College Orchestra Directors Association
  • Colorado Flute Association
  • Tim and Wendi Davis
  • Ann R. Donoghue
  • Don and Cynthia Dotson
  • Mark Douglass
  • Nick and Amy Drabik
  • Anonymous
  • Catherine Flannery
  • Flute Plus
  • Jim and Julie Gatesman
  • Elena Georgieva
  • David Hahn
  • Utah Hamrick
  • Cindy Haraway
  • Leslie Harrington
  • Jennifer L. Holz and Georgia Peeples
  • Karen L. Howat
  • Ryan Hyde
  • Nancy Jianakoplos
  • George and Laura G. Jones
  • Richard Kellogg
  • Harry W. Kenney and Leslie L. Stewart
  • Evan Key
  • William Kingren
  • Robert A. and Lisa G. Kreutz
  • Ira Kroll
  • Fred W. Jacobs and Jennifer Clary
  • Arthur T. and Sheri L. Linnell
  • Manchester Choral Society
  • National Catholic Band Association
  • Megan S. Miller
  • Randy D. Moench and Emily H. Thurston-Moench
  • Tim Oliver
  • Karen Olsen and Guada Bautista
  • Jan Opalach
  • Douglas and Kathleen M. Payne
  • Edward and Laura Piechota
  • Flute Plus
  • Janet M. Puckett
  • David W. and Louann Reid
  • Randy Rosette
  • Greg and Jane Sandstrom
  • Molly Sayles
  • Belinda and Elisa Shreckengost
  • Craig E. and Lorraine L. Shuler
  • Peter R. and Linda E. Sommer
  • Lisa Soo
  • Erin Spencer
  • Steven T. and Kellie A. Sponberg
  • Cary C. Stewart
  • Susquehanna Chorale
  • Steven and Monica Szalaj
  • Adam A. Torres and Michael Schreier
  • Gayle Treber, '71, '87
  • Theodore and Malia Van Rooy
  • Kirsten Wells
  • Nina Zheng

Your Gift

Your contribution will immediately provide for:

  • Salary for project staff (one graduate student, one postdoc, one research scientist)
  • Research supplies
  • Calibration and maintenance of equipment
  • Open access publication fees (to make the data/results freely accessible)