Music Student Case Studies

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The following are a series of case studies relating to Music Students being the subject of allegations of excessive “noise” as applied to their music practice and Council procedure toward these students.

All Case studies are true and verifiable, either written by the Student themselves or related to the author.

Case Study One

John S

inner Melbourne suburb

Dear Chris

I am writing this letter to inform you about my experience with my local council regarding playing drums.

The first time my local council contacted me about playing drums due to “noise pollution” was via a letter. In this letter, they informed me that someone in my neighbourhood had made a formal complaint about how loud I was playing. If I continued to play the drums at the same intensity, I would face and have to pay a ten thousand dollar fine, ($10 000). I found this to be completely outrageous.

When I received this letter I rang my council and asked them a simple question:

“Has anybody from the council conducted any noise pollution tests to see at what level I was playing?”

There response was, “No”.

My next question was, “Then how can the council send a letter about fining me with no evidence?”

As a result of this, a time was organised for someone from the council to conduct a suitable noise pollution study. I thought this was fantastic. The council to complete an actual study on “noise pollution.”

However, when a council worker came to my home, he did not have any equipment with him. All he asked of me was to simply play the drums and he will listen and judge himself if the noise pollution was within reason. Then he would either give me a green light to continue playing at that level, or I would have to adapt and make some changes to my musical instrument.

This noise pollution test was completed in a total of 1 minute, and I was able to continue playing at the same noise level.

The problem that I had with this process was, I was sent an incredibly nasty letter from the council. But when I made an inquiry about it, it seemed as though their letter was a simple threat designed to make this type of situation go away.


John S

Case Study Two

Dominic and Charlie - Melbourne western suburb

Dominic and Charlie, young teenage students who learnt drums and guitar respectively, were sent a Council letter warning of hefty fines in the thousands of dollars, if the “noise nuisance” from their house did not stop.

The family were shocked and angry as no-one had knocked on their door or contacted them at any time regarding their practising; the complainant had simply contacted the council and they in turn sent a form letter warning of heavy fines into the thousands of dollars.

Their parents, both of European descent, not being able to fully understand the official tone of the letter, only the hefty fines stated, became deeply upset. This letter caused friction with the family with the two young lads having to fight to continue practising.

More confusing was the fact that the family knew of two other drummers in the street and found neither had received any complaint. They thought maybe it was a case of “mistaken identity”, but the Council continued sending letters, despite the fact that their practice times were well within the time guidelines stated by the council (mostly Saturday afternoons)

The boy’s father then canvassed the street to try to find the complainant and a solution, he found that the complainant was the next door neighbour whom they thought a friend having invited he and his family for dinner and barbecues.

The complainant was a motor mechanic who would often work on cars late into the night in his driveway, right next to Charlie's bedroom window, infringing Council approval, nothing had ever been said by Dominic and Charlie’s family.

A long argument developed and the threat of informing the Council of the complainant working on cars until midnight most weeknights quickly stopped the complaints.

The Council did not at any time come to Dominic and Charlie’s house to verify the complaint or check the mechanics breaching of Council guidelines as regard to his mechanical work on cars and trucks.

Case Study Three

Robert - northern Melbourne suburb

Robert, a gifted guitar student learning the instrument at a prominent North Suburban College, involved in the school rock band program and school big band, would practice in the family garage converted into a small music space and sound insulated by his father.

When the family received Council Letters warning of thousand dollar plus fines, Robert asked his Guitar Teacher for a “reference” stating that his practice was needed for his school studies as he was preparing for an upcoming Music examination; his teacher was happy to comply.

Robert’s guitar teacher sought Council information whilst drafting the letter; When ringing the Council office concerned and introducing himself as “seeking information about times for music practice”; the Council officer said words to the effect of

“... If you can tell us the address of the kid playing music, we’ll send a letter and that usually shuts them up”.

When the guitar teacher stated that he was Robert’s tutor seeking the relevant Council By-laws, the Council officer’s tone changed dramatically.

Robert’s father used the letter and information gained to petition the street in an effort to find an amicable solution and suitable practice times for his son. Most of the street found no problem with Robert’s practice times and signed the petition; Robert’s father then sent the letter and petition to the Council.

A few weeks later, the guitar teacher received a phone call from the complainant; a long argument ensued where the complainant became abusive and racial slurs were used against the Robert and his family; it became clear that the complainant simply started complaining to Police and Council about any “neighbourhood sound”, be it a dog barking, a lawn mower or a car warming up. The teacher said he was sorry that he didn’t use stronger wording in the reference he wrote for Robert. The guitar teacher duly reported this incident to the College and Robert’s father who then informed Council. The Council stopped sending letters.

Twelve months later the teacher received a phone call from a Senior Sergeant of the Internal Affairs Department of the Victorian Police. The complainant had been charged with assaulting Police as they were attempting to resolve another spurious noise complaint; The Senior Sergeant was building a case on behalf of the Officers involved.

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