Now is the right time to become an American Federation of Musicians member. From ragtime to rap, from the early phonograph to today's digital recordings, the AFM has been there for its members. And now there are more benefits available to AFM members than ever before, including a multi-million dollar pension fund, excellent contract protection, instrument and travelers insurance, work referral programs and access to licensed booking agents to keep you working.

As an AFM member, you are part of a membership of more than 80,000 musicians. Experience has proven that collective activity on behalf of individuals with similar interests is the most effective way to achieve a goal. The AFM can negotiate agreements and administer contracts, procure valuable benefits and achieve legislative goals. A single musician has no such power.

The AFM has a proud history of managing change rather than being victimized by it. We find strength in adversity, and when the going gets tough, we get creative - all on your behalf.

Like the industry, the AFM is also changing and evolving, and its policies and programs will move in new directions dictated by its members. As a member, you will determine these directions through your interest and involvement. Your membership card will be your key to participation in governing your union, keeping it responsive to your needs and enabling it to serve you better. To become a member now, visit www.afm.org/join.

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Home » Resources » Health » Cleaning Your Wind Instrument Could Be Life or Death.
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Cleaning Your Wind Instrument Could Be Life or Death.

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cleaning your wind instrumentCleaning your wind instrument isn’t just a matter of aesthetics, it could be a matter of life or death. According to an article published in the journal General Dentistry, many woodwind and brass instruments are heavily contaminated with bacteria and fungi. Through the act of merely blowing into an instrument, you are creating the perfect warm, moist environment for germs, mold, bacteria, and microscopic organisms.

Every time an infected instrument is played, contaminants enter the lungs. If they do not cause an infection, they can cause an immune system reaction that results in inflammation of the respiratory system, and eventually, hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

In one study published in The International Journal of Environmental Health Research, Tufts University scientists tested 20 instruments and found that all of them harbored living bacteria, mold, and yeast. Wooden reeds and mouthpieces had the most contamination. While that study was focused on student instruments, there have been many well-documented cases of instrument-caused illness in adults, even professionals.

The journal Chest reported on a 35-year-old trombone player whose 15-year cough went away after he began disinfecting his instrument with rubbing alcohol. The same journal reported on a 48-year-old saxophone player with lung disease. The molds ulocladium botrytis and phoma sp. were discovered in his saxophone. 

And there’s the well-known case of English bagpiper John Shone who suffered a near fatal infection caused by fungus growing in his bagpipes. “Failing to clean my pipes led to me becoming critically ill,” he reported in Piping Times. Shone, of Wiltshire, England, who has been playing since childhood, was hospitalized twice. Doctors were stumped until they learned he was a bagpiper. They tested his instrument and discovered deadly fungi, including rhodotorula and fusarium, which typically kill half the people they infect. 

One AFM member and trombone player suffered from asthma for 15 years, until he noticed that, when he was away from his instrument, his symptoms improved. “I had a horrible barking cough—especially when I played trombone,” he explained in a 2010 National Public Radio interview. 

When doctors at the University of Connecticut, where he was teaching at the time, took a culture from inside his trombone, they found the mold fusarium, as well as a type of bacteria called mycobacterium. He admitted he was once lax about cleaning his instrument, is now diligent about cleaning. “I use a rod with a cloth and I use alcohol—rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol,” he says. 

All wind instruments should, at the minimum, be swabbed on the inside after each use. In most cases, mouthpieces can be safely washed in warm water and dish soap. Brass instruments should be disassembled and thoroughly cleaned according to manufacturer suggestions every couple months, depending on use.







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