WVU’s choral director gives performers some much-wanted mask love.
Now we all know: masks are uncomfortable. But imagine you’re a singer, trained to inhale and expel huge volumes of air and project your voice—a mask is not just uncomfortable, it’s downright muzzling.
Enter Kym Scott, director of choral activities at WVU and, as it happens, a lifelong seamstress. Early in the pandemic, she designed a prototype singer’s mask, then dropped it when she saw others go on the market. But then a colleague who learned of her prototype told her WVU’s Center for Inhalation Toxicology could test it.
“So we’ve done a couple rounds of tests,” Scott says—wait, change the voice you’re using for her in your head, because she’s distinctly Australian. “We’ve worked out some things with fit and different materials to come up with something that’s feasible in terms of weight, construction, and safety.”
Scott’s performer’s mask has a lightweight framework sewn in that keeps it from collapsing when the user inhales. A friend of hers who has sung with it several times gave it what most would agree is a glowing review: “I didn’t want to rip it off my face when I was done!”
Scott posted on social media last week to see if there’s any demand for a mask like this. “Let’s just say, the demand is pretty high,” she laughs. “My Facebook has blown up.” Expressions of interest in the first few days, mainly from school and university teachers, amount to orders for possibly as many as 3,000 masks. Although WVU intellectual property experts don’t feel a patent is worth the time and expense and she agrees, she’s now registering a business and looking for a manufacturer.
As far as Scott is aware, makers of the other singers’ masks on the market don’t claim they’ve been tested for their effectiveness in containing expelled droplets. With what she hopes is a final round of testing at the Center for Inhalation Toxicology this week, she plans to make the masks available for purchase: $30 for performer’s masks, $28 for simpler teacher’s and children’s masks, with discounts for bulk orders. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire.
“This is hopefully a short-lived venture,” Scott says. “It’ll be interesting to see how much people still think about these things after we have a vaccine. I think people will be more open to the idea of wearing masks in general in a post-COVID world.”
posted on August 5, 2020
image courtesy of Kym Scott