Sally's Biography

MEET SALLY COHN, A HANDWHISTLER

 

Iíve been handwhistling with my cupped hands for nearly sixty years, starting when I was twelve. I discovered my unique whistling gift while attending a basketball game. This inspired me to try whistling tunes while playing Bing Crosby 78 rpm phonograph recordings on a Magnavox turntable (before LPís, stereos, cassettes, CDís or DVDís). My first public performance was in 1950 at a huge athletic coliseum on a large college campus during a 4-H Club-sponsored talent show. That show was broadcast live by a local radio station, now an affiliate of NPR.

I didnít really do much with my handwhistling gift until I was able to experiment and create three-part harmony layers on cassette tapes in the Sixties. That helped me to improve my whistling technique to the point where I felt it was suitable for public performance.

Over the last thirty years Iíve whistled in several Celtic bands, where I also play recorder, tin whistle, and washtub bass. Iíve also whistled in an all-womenís jug band, with Mitch Hiderís "Holiday For Lips" whistling festivals in Oregon, with several church choirs, and in more talent shows than I can remember. I competed in the Carson City, Nevada Whistleoffs and in the Eastbourne, U.K. whistling competition in 1992. My last competition whistling was done at the Edmonton, Alberta Millennium Whistling Championships. Since then, I have participated in three of Robert Stemmonsí Puckerama Festivals. At two of them, I conducted handwhistling workshops. Iíve also done those workshops for middle-school kids at a church camp.

Iím a retired state agency clerical specialist, but I did teach school in the Sixties and early Seventies and caught/discovered a number of middle-school-aged boys with ADHD tendencies who loved to use their whistling gift to disrupt class. I have never caught girls doing this, but I did turn several girls on to making music with their hands in my church camp workshops. Iím always very careful to caution these kids about where itís okay to whistle and where itís not okay, like in a classroom.

 

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