My Beginnings as a Whistler
I was a four year old with serious kidney disease and had spent half my life in hospitals. Because I wasn’t well, I was expected to take long naps. I hated naps. One afternoon, bored and lonely and tired of pretending the end of my bed was a horse, I discovered I could make a low whistling sound. When I showed off my new talent to my family, everybody laughed! Here I was, a tiny girl, whistling really low notes. Never considering that what I had learned was real whistling, I continued casually with the skill, and learned to low-whistle simple songs. Occasionally, I’d show it off to my friends, and we’d all laugh at my strange-sounding trick.
It wasn’t until I was almost 10 years that I finally learned to whistle regular high notes that sounded like the whistling I heard other people do. Until I grew up, I whistled musically using this type of higher whistle but never treated it seriously like the other musical instrument that I learned to play.
When my son Tristan was born. I wanted to sing to him, but was frustrated by the strong limitations of my singing voice. So I started to whistle to him instead, and, as I whistled, I discovered that I liked the sound I made. All my life, I had longed to be able to sing beautiful pieces such as Grieg’s Solveig’s song or Delia from the Merry Widow. These were the first pieces I remember whistling to Tristan.
By the time my son was a year old and I had returned to work, I was assigned a desk beside a man who whistled beautifully — and who spent much of his work time doing just that. I asked to be transferred farther away from him so I could concentrate on my job. However, when that wasn’t approved, I decided to benefit from the situation and learn what I could from my co-worker. Over time, I learned to do vibrato and simple articulations. Sometime after that I bought a book, “How to Whistle Like a Pro” (Without Driving Anyone Else Crazy) by David Harp and Jason Victor Serinus. Occasionally I would work on some of the warble or double-tonguing (tuh-kuh) articulations from the book but never really took it seriously.
That was the start. The seed was planted, but nothing much had grown of it.
Years passed. One night in July 2001, I was working late on my computer on a large project that had been taking up most of my working and waking hours for several months. Feeling slightly bored and tired (not unlike the four-year old who’d become bored during a restrictive nap period), I decided to play a bit and used Google search to look up links about whistling.
One of the first links led to an Internet forum called Orawhistle.
At the time, Orawhistle had approximately 60 members. I joined and introduced myself and truly enjoyed learning from the other members about whistling technique and history. I even discovered that my low whistle trick wasn’t a trick at all — it was the bottom octave of my three and a half-octave whistling range!
A month after I joined, Jay Schlitz who had started Orawhistle during the previous year, phoned me to tell me that he had transferred the ownership of the forum to me and was signing off so he could concentrate on classical music whistling. Since then, I have continued to learn both about whistling and about how to manage a forum.
Orawhistle has grown a great deal since I first took over as owner moderator. It now has over 750 members now from more than 37 nations, 45 American states, and 7 Canadian provinces. In addition to an archive with over 12,000 message posts, Orawhistle has extensive databases on whistling technique and other whistling-related information such as quotations that refer to whistling, popular songs with whistling in them, words for whistling in other languages, and available whistling CDs and tapes.
Blessed with Orawhistle’s rich interaction of performing whistlers, I have been able to continue my study of whistling, and over the past few years have performed in concerts and on radio and TV.
All originating from a bored four-year old girl who should have been napping.