Stoughton woman creates special masks for woodwind musicians

STOUGHTON, Wis. — With more than 30 years of instrument repair experience under her belt, Katy Hopkins has done well with her Stoughton business, Yahara River Woodwinds.

But when the pandemic began to take a toll on businesses, Hopkins tapped into her creativity to find ways to keep a steady income.

“My business dropped off a little bit so I started making regular masks,” she said.

Hopkins sold her masks for a while on Etsy, but that led to another request. Hopkins said some of her musician friends asked her if she could create masks that would make holding rehearsals and in-person lessons safe and feasible.

Over a three month period, Hopkins developed three prototypes and sent them to her musician friends for critiques. She finally was able to come up with solid products and has now sold more than 400 masks to universities around the country.

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“It has an extra hole in the side which is where you put the flute and that allows the player to play and have their air be contained. The problem with the flute is that when you blow, a lot of the air goes into the room,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins developed three different types of masks for flutes, brass and woodwinds.

“It’s made it much easier for them to function in a public rehearsal situation and it’s much safer,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins said she hopes she doesn’t have to make the masks forever in hopes that the pandemic will end soon so people can go back to creating music together in person.

If you’re interested in one of Hopkins’ specialized masks, email her at repair@yaharariverwoodwinds.com.