Mount Dora City Council Annika Valentine

Harassed By The Cops For Playing My Violin

This last month has been a pretty crazy time for me. Not only with ballet, as in Crazy Good, but with my violin playing, as in Crazy. Just Crazy.

As you may know, I’m also a violinist and I play on the street corner in my hometown to help pay for my summer ballet intensives. For the last three years I’ve been playing in my sweet little town of Mount Dora, Florida and have loved every minute of it. Until recently.

I have been shut down by the police twice for playing my violin. Coincidentally, my dad was elected to City Council and since the election in November there’s been a batch of haters in our town causing all sorts of commotion. Now I’m a target, and I’m not liking it one bit!

Check out my video to see me stand up for myself at our recent City Council meeting. I was pretty nervous so I left out a lot of what I had planned to say. My speech was completely from my heart and I am so thankful for the support in the room that I received that evening, as well as the following day on social media.

Here is my written speech. I left out quite a bit!

Hi my name is Annika Slaby I’m 16 years old and live in Mount Dora, FL. 

I am speaking tonight regarding my violin playing. This is my speech. I wrote this myself.

I have been playing my violin in downtown Mount Dora on the weekends for nearly three years and up until a month ago I have enjoyed every minute of it. What started as a way for me to earn some extra money has turned into so much more for me and I think the city of Mount Dora as well.

I have been homeschooled my whole life and part of my schooling has been participating in the real world, so playing violin to earn some extra money is a completely normal thing as part of my schooling. I play my violin to raise money for ballet summer intensives. It is my lifelong dream to pursue ballet as my career so this summer training is essential. I’ve trained all over the country with various companies including the Bolshoi Ballet, American Ballet Theater, the Harid Conservatory, Gelsey Kirkland Academy and this summer I’ll be attending the Ellison ballet academy for 6 weeks in NYC.

As time went on, I quickly realized my playing was more then an ends to a means for myself. It has enriched the moments of so many of the people that come to visit our special town. I know this because they tell me so. My dad even says couples often start to hold hands as they pass by me. I’m not saying I have that kind of power over them, but people have told me my playing does make them smile.

So the reason I’m here is because in all my years of playing with so much support from not only our visitors but the merchants and residents of this town, I have suddenly become a target to a batch of haters.

On December 23 I was met by a police officer who said he had gotten complaints about my playing because I was soliciting for money. Until that moment I always played on the sidewalk on Donnelly between fourth and fifth Avenues. This particular day I was in front of the wonderful store, Donnelly Euro footwear.

Upon meeting the officer, my parents and I packed up my things and left.

Upon further review of the ordinance we realized that I could continue to play as long as I was on private property and not on the sidewalk.

My dad also met with Chief O’Grady and told the chief that I would be playing on private property in order to comply with the ordinance.

Fast forward to Saturday night February 13. Since my first run in with the law, I have gotten permission from two merchants to play on their property. Saturday afternoon I was playing at the Renaissance building.

It was a gorgeous afternoon and the streets were bustling. It wasn’t an unusual day. People strolling by and stopping as I played.

While I was playing, I noticed council member Marie Rich go into the Estate Jewelry store within the Renaissance Building. I saw her speaking to the owner of that store. Within moments she left.

Within a few more moments the manager took my picture.

Then twenty minutes later, I was met by two police officers who said there had been numerous complaints about me playing for money, including one from a council member.

The police officer told me I needed to stop playing. I told him I was within the ordinance as I was playing on private property with permission from the owner of the building. When I asked if I could play until my parents could pick me up, he said no, that I could not play and solicit for money. When I asked if I could close my case and keep playing he said no again.

By this time Amy Sellers, a merchant in the Renaissance building, came out and spoke to the officer and told him also that I had permission to play on the property. She also offered to call the owner of the building for the police to speak to him as well.
At that point the officer went to speak to the owner of the building.

By this time my parents had arrived and spoke to the officers, basically saying the same thing I did…that I was within the ordinance.

So it was agreed that I could continue to play.

Now……when I speak about this in front of you, one word comes to me and that is “harassed.”

I feel betrayed by this city, a city I’ve lived in my whole life. I just can’t seem to understand why you want to tear something down that makes so many people so happy.

Thank you Mayor,  for this time.

About The Author

Annika Valentine

I am a teenager with a career that starts now. I'm working my way through the twists and twirls of the ballet world, with my violin by my side. Catch up with me on social media. Facebook, Instagram, YoutTube @annikavalentine. Twitter @loveannikaxoxo

  • Maria Shafer

    It would be so easy for me to just comment (criticize) those particular individuals for their actions — petty and ridiculous. But, instead, I will take this moment to say that you are a great example. Poise, intelligence…just being decent and trying to improve the space around you (let alone the world)…attributes generally dropped by adulthood in this society, or traded for others (greed, selfishness, “me first”). Thank you for pushing the good things…and for providing such a beautiful soundtrack along the way. You rock!!!

    • Annika Valentine

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Maria! It has been so much of a joy playing downtown. I gain way more than just tips. Good people like you inspire me to keep going!

  • Annika Valentine

    Thank you so much for your kind words, Maria! It has been so much of a joy playing downtown. I gain way more than just tips. Good people like you inspire me to keep going!

  • StrangeCorn

    The archonists find someone who is home-schooled and talented and it makes them sheathe with hate. We can always do a better job than the government and we will continue. Keep going and protect the document that preserves our rights — The Constitution!

  • Concerned Mom

    I work at The Spice and Tea Exchange and the Manager gives you permission to play out in front of our store any time!

    • Annika Valentine

      Thank you! That’s nice to know. Thank you for your support!

  • Veronica Johnson

    Annika-I do not know you, as I only moved to this beautiful town less than 3 years ago from Kentucky. However, I do know your brother since I am the AD at MDHS and he participates in sports with our school. With that being said, I have seen/heard you play downtown and have always been very impressed with your talent. You are always poised and graceful, and I have been so impressed with your talent. It reminds me of going to Nashville, TN where people are playing on sidewalks and street corners all down Broadway…it’s entertaining, makes people smile and provides a ray of sunshine in this sometimes dark world. I am so sorry that you have been “harassed” by people because of their own ‘agenda’ or jealousy. These are adults whom should know better and not try to use you to ‘get back’ at other. I wish nothing you nothing but the best!

    • Annika Valentine

      Thank you so much for your support Veronica! I’ve so loved playing downtown all these years…and now to hear these stories from people that have heard me over the years, really is special. …. As for my brother…maybe you could get him to bring his cello downtown one day and play with me! 🙂

  • Alexza

    I saw you playing the other night. It was lovely and I was actually thinking that you weren’t quite as loud as the kid who plays his guitar outside the stores sometimes. It is an awful thing when politics kills dreams. Don’t let it kill yours. Keep playing!

    • Annika Valentine

      Thank you Alexza! I appreciate your support!

  • Kim Pinson

    Hi Annika!
    Whispering Winds, on Donnelly, would welcome you to play on our breezeway whenever you like. You have remarkable talent and determination. Please feel free to contact Jim or myself with your contact info and availability.

    Kim Pinson
    Whispering Winds

    • Annika Valentine

      Thanks Kim! That would be a great location to switch it up from time to time. So appreciate your support.

      • Kim Pinson

        Just let us know! We would be honored 🙂

        • Annika Valentine

          Will do!

  • northofmontana

    I might as well be a million miles from you because I live in southern Alberta Canada.But you and your fans should know that the music you play is heard around the world.I think it would be really neat if you and your brother played together.If I was a rich guy ,I would make a special trip to your part of the world ,just to hear you,and I would for sure drop a 50 or !00 dollar bill ,Canadian of course ,in you case.

    • Annika Valentine

      Thank you so much for your support!

  • Stephanie Clunn

    Now THAT is sad. I ran into your light-bearing countenance just the other day and my heart was full with listening AND seeing you. Ignore the politics, and play on. Here’s a pic I snapped that moment myself to prove my point. xxoo

    • Annika Valentine

      Awe, thank you Mrs. Clunn. I really appreciate the support and your kind words!!

  • Joyce Wood

    I have heard your violin playing in downtown Mount Dora and it is lovely. That being said, the ordinance is in place for a reason and applies to everyone; whether they are playing a lovely violin, juggling, or holding a “Will work for Food” sign. Panhandling is panhandling. So sorry you were approached (you were not harrassed) by the city police (they were doing there job). Also sorry your father set you up to be embarrassed like this. As a city councilman, he knows the rules, laws, and ordinances apply to everyone. I hope you continue to play, but do follow the law.

    • Leisa M. Freeman

      I’m not sure why Annika’s parents are being blamed when in fact once she was advised of the ordinance she complied with the rules. I think the bigger picture is why Mount Dora politics is targeting a bright talented child in order to harass her father. Annika you and your family are some of the brightest and most considerate people in our community. Keep shining on!!!!!

      • Annika Valentine

        Thank you so much Mrs Freeman for your support!! It’s the positive support from nice people like yourself that keeps me going!

    • EmoryQuad

      Given limited resources and numerous ordinances, seems to me quite selective. Better to focus on public safety and have law enforcement ticket or warn jaywalkers who walk into traffic in downtown, or those who cross before the signal says go.

      • Annika Valentine

        Thank you for your support! @emoryquad:disqus

    • Maria Slaby

      With all due respect, Ms Wood, the issue at hand had nothing to do with the ordinance, rather a misuse of power. If you’d please refer back to Annika’s post you’ll see that Annika was playing on private property so the ordinance was moot. That begs the question: Why was she shut down? Annika made it very clear to the officers, that she was on private property and had permission to play. She didn’t even have to do that. She was very clearly on private property. But, they shut her down anyway.

      This wasn’t a situation where we, as her parents, weren’t aware of the ordinance, nor a situation where we were seeking any preferential treatment.

      Consider this: If you were on private property, doing nothing unlawful, and the police came to tell you to leave, you might feel harassed as well.

  • Tybalt_King_of_Cats

    Florida small town politics. My wife ran into it a lot when she was Mount Dora’s librarian.