Safe practices and new barriers keep Music Faculty humming along

February 11, 2021

If not for a cleverly designed barrier, the province-wide response to the pandemic may have muted the Don Wright Faculty of Music’s in-person instruction in the new year.

FM tradesperson cutting the metal frame to size for barriers

In the foreground, Barry Fletcher meticulously trims framing material to size, while Zach Robertson works in the background, bending metal rods into shape. Project members not pictured include Mario Dos Santos, Ken Hill, Darren Jones, and Don Woolner.

In seeking solutions to newly imposed COVID-19 related restrictions, Music Dean, Betty Anne Younker turned to fabrication experts in Facilities Management (FM). A small team of trades led by Operations Manager, Ken Hill, designed and immediately began handcrafting the customized and individual-sized barriers. In order to produce the 170 requested units, production was split between the FM team and the University Machine Shop.

The protective devices will keep the practical aspects of the music program humming along without interruption.

“COVID-19 has largely been intrusive to the work we do and the services we provide to the campus community,” says Hill. “In this case, however, it has provided us with an opportunity to further demonstrate our expertise and creativity.”

The semi-circular metal frame and plexiglass construction sits on casters and can be positioned and repositioned by musicians. Each unit is maneuverable to any configuration to suit the size and positioning of most musical instruments. They are divvied up between rehearsal spaces and studios and will remain in place at a mandatory six feet from one another.

The barriers have already been delivered by FM's Stores Department to the Music Building and Talbot College and will be deployed throughout the faculty. They are a shared resource, pooled between both students and instructors.

“For now, under the Ontario guidelines voice students, and winds, and brass players must have a barrier,” says Younker. She emphasizes that there are no alternatives to the barriers and the program would not continue without them.

Two students play their instruments behind protective barriers

Students continue in-person instruction in the Paul Davenport Theatre while protected by custom, portable barriers.

As part of the current shutdown, the provincial government stipulates that people are required to remain two metres from one other and be separated by an impervious barrier, such as a mask or face shield. Musicians, especially vocalists, are doubling up on PPE, wearing a mask while using the customized barrier when possible. However, many instruments require the musician to use their mouth to play, making masks and shields impossible to use and elevating the need for the partial enclosures.

“All Facilities Management teams have been working hard behind the scenes to keep campus ticking throughout the pandemic,” says Hill. “It is great to see some of our members being able to support the Music faculty in a very direct and visible way.”


In-person choral instruction continues with the use of portable barriers.


Students warming up practice safe distancing, have limited room occupancy, and use protective barriers.


Don Wright Faculty of Music is one of few faculties equipped to carry on with in-person instruction.


A small group of FM tradespeople fabricated barriers specifically designed for the Music program.


The partially produced semi-circular barrier will be outfitted with a transparent shield and casters for easy maneuverability.


A practice room is equipped with portable, semi-circular barriers.