How did you get started?
February 23, 2017
I started whistling when I was five years old. My father, Joseph — also known as Bub — has always loved to whistle and was my role model. There are a few things that stand out in my mind over the years. First, it’s listening to classical music snippets from a record collection called 120 Musical Masterpieces. I also loved to whistle Strauss waltzes. To this day, Strauss waltzes are my favorite rehearsal music.
Next, I remember whistling for an hour or so a day as a teenager while delivering Long Island Newsday after school. In those days I was louder than I was good. My customers routinely said they could hear me coming from blocks away. They didn’t say much about how good it was!
In college I performed in talent shows and coffee houses, jammed at open mic nights, and whistled on campus (Binghamton University in upstate New York) as I skateboarded from class to class.
Upon arriving in Washington, DC in early 1987, I continued attending open mic nights, picking up a keen interest in the blues. And then it happened. While hiking in the Shenandoah National Park with a bunch of friends in the fall of 1992 someone heard me whistling and suggested that I “do something” with my whistling. I was flattered and said that I had heard there was a national contest but that I didn’t know anything about it. My good friend Elizabeth Sauer (now Foster) said that if such a contest existed she would find it.
And she did! Every April the town of Louisburg, NC, which is around 30 miles north of Raleigh, hosts the National/International Whistlers Convention. I first competed in 1993, coming on second place in the “popular music” category. I went on to compete eight more times, winning the first place grand champion title four times (1994, 1996, 1999 and 2000).