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Summer School: How To Whistle

Olivia Lau
For his senior project at Middlebury College, Yuki Takeda made whistling the centerpiece of an hour-long concert.

When he was ten years old, Yuki Takeda's friends could whistle and he couldn't. But the young Takeda wanted to whistle, badly. So he went online and followed the lessons he found there. But he soon discovered garden-variety whistling just wasn't going to cut it. Takeda honed his skills and discovered a love of whistling that has carried him into young adulthood.

"My one and only policy about whistling is that if I am annoying someone I would not whistle. So I ask everyone around me to tell me to stop whenever it's annoying. Because whistling should be a happy thing and not an annoying thing."

The World Series of whistling is the International Whistlers' Convention. Takeda has won the teenage grand championship and last year he came in second in the world in the adult division. He just graduated from Middlebury College, and is returning to his hometown of Tokyo, Japan. While a few people are able to earn a living from whistling, Takeda plans to make a separate career but devote his life to enhancing the reputation of the art form. "I want to be the whistler who changes the image of whistling," he says. "Whistling has been a performance or a show content, but not really been perceived as a musical instrument that can be integrated into ensembles or that can have compositions written for it. But this situation should change."

While some people find whistling annoying, Takeda says it's a joyful noise. "You cannot not be happy when you're whistling. And if everyone's whistling, the world should be more peaceful."

But before he left Vermont, he offered up a few tips in the fine art of whistling for the Vermont Edition Summer School series, including glissando, trills, and double tones--singing two notes at once.

Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
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