Before You Play That Used Saxophone Or Clarinet

  A dear friend gave me her husbands beautiful old clarinet after he died of heart disease. I used to play a Saxophone in my younger years and she knew that the two were similar instruments. Indeed, a wooden reed is placed over the mouthpiece of each and by blowing into the mouthpiece, over the reed…well, beautiful music happens. 
She recently passed and the clarinet has sat in storage for 20 years. Although she often asked why I didn’t play it, I never told her the real reason I didn’t was fear. The fact is, he died of heart disease and fungus and bacteria can cause heart disease.  If it caused his, it could also cause mine, just by picking up the old instrument and breathing into it.

So says Dr. Marissa Shams of Emory University. Late last year an Atlanta man was diagnosed with a very serious lung fungal condition and it was determined that his clarinet reed had a disease causing fungus growing on it. This was reported in November 2013, on NBC news.

I’m not certain I’ll ever play that clarinet for the very reasons mentioned. If the reed or mouthpiece is impregnated with a disease causing fungus, isn’t the complete interior structure also impregnated? Like the uncertainty a realtor in knowing that a home is filled with mold, I find myself wondering if trying to sell this valuable old gem isn’t counterproductive to someone’s health! I suppose it could be thoroughly cleaned, but some fungi even resist autoclaving. A home could be dismantled and rebuilt, but a clarinet simply cannot be. 


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