A Murcian professor devises a system to give air to the instrument with an inflator and without having to blow
One of the many routines that the coronavirus has forced to change in educational centers is that of music classes. The recorder, the most popular of instruments among schoolchildren, has stopped playing in all classrooms this year due to the risk that children take off their masks to blow and emit an air that could well be loaded with the virus. The alternative that they have found in an institute in Lorca (Murcia) is that, instead of blowing with their mouth, they do it with their feet.
The creator of the idea is Néstor de San Lázaro, a music teacher at the Ramón Arcas Meca institute, who assures EL PAÍS that his invention, like almost everything in life, “arises from the need to solve a problem”. If the students were not going to be able to blow in class, they had to find another way to put air into the instrument and what occurred to him was to do it with a standing inflator, the kind that can be bought in any sports store for less than 10 euros to, for example, inflate mats.
De San Lázaro, with the help of the centre’s technology teachers, then designed and patented an adapter, a small piece of plastic to join the nozzle of the inflator to that of the flute. The institute made the 3D printer they use for classes in some of the vocational training modules they teach to make these adapters available to them, and this month the invention has been put into practice with success.
“At first we found it funny, a joke. We were a bit shocked, ”says Inmaculada, a first-year high school student who has already practiced with the device. It is, he says, a “a bit strange” experience, that of holding the flute away from the mouth and coordinating the position of the fingers with the movement of the foot. “On the first few tries, it sounded awful,” he laughs.
But he assures that, once the initial surprise is over, the students have welcomed the idea because it helps them “get a little closer to normality”, so that the classes look more like those before the pandemic. “It was a bit sad to play the flute without sound, doing only the movements of the fingers,” he sums up, because that was the way they had chosen in the center, in addition to using virtual instruments through the computer and the tablet to give this subject.
In recent weeks, De San Lázaro has gone a bit further with his invention, placing a particle filter between the inflator and the flute so that the air that is propelled with the foot comes out of the instrument already purified. “It is an amount of clean air that is anecdotal, but in this way, it is not only safe to play the flute, but it is also recommended,” he says.
For the teacher, the collaboration of the center’s management team has been crucial. Its director, Juan Antonio Lopez, believes that in times of crisis such as the current one “creativity is important” to be able to move forward. “We have completely suppressed many everyday things just by not stopping to think and put imagination. We have tried to choose, in this and in all the subjects, to look for alternatives that allow us to maintain a certain normality and not reach the drastic decision to eliminate certain practices ”, he explains.
In this case, they chose to “say yes to everything” what De San Lázaro was asking of them and claims to feel very satisfied to be the first educational center in Spain in which the music of the flutes is heard again.
The goal of this music teacher is to spread the example: with the center’s 3D printer, he is making more adapters to donate to other interested schools and institutes. There are half a dozen of them in the Region of Murcia, but he regrets that many management teams are not as open as his. There is “a lot of fear”, “a lot of reluctance” to try new things, but in the current scenario, solutions have to be taken in the short term and decisively and, in most everyday situations “it is not necessary to wait for an express authorization from the ministry”. For that there is the powerful weapon of the educational autonomy of the centers, he assures.