Practicing a breach of the peace
One of my violin students, who lives in an apartment complex, has been confiding with me about her difficulties practicing due to an overbearing downstairs neighbor named Earle. She’s a beginning adult player, an engineer who lives with her husband, 3 year old child, and a small dog, and like most of us she struggles to find time to devote to her hobbies and pastimes. She usually takes out the fiddle on her lunch breaks, and spends most of her lunchtime working on her lessons during the week. At first, her neighbor would pound on the ceiling and yell obscenities, deriding her musical skills, but last week Earle resorted to calling the police insisting that her practicing violin was creating a public nuisance. Sure enough, in the middle of her playing through Susuki book 1 theres a loud knock at the door. Two officers, armed with a decibel meter, explain the situation to her, but since her violin isnt loud enough to constitute a breach of the noise ordinance they explain that she’s not at fault, and is welcome to continue practicing whenever she likes. The second time, the same cops were dispatched, she invited them in for coffee and performed Bach’s Minuet number 1 for them. They listened politely, enjoyed their coffee, and thanked her for her hospitality. Yesterday, while she was practicing, the policemen were called again, but this time they knocked on Earl’s door instead, and issued him a $180 citation for misusing 911 when there was no crime being committed. I live in constant hope that sometimes, the power of music, no matter how inexpertly it is performed, can overcome this progressively more calloused and bureaucratic world we are living in. And I am also excited to see her continuing to practice and improve despite being forced to overcome social obstacles to do so. Any performer who can incite such powerful emotions in their audience, whether joy or rage, must be doing something right!