‘The Whistler’ entertains himself and passers-by

Nikki Wee

On a nice day, Caleb Hicks can be found around campus donning headphones and whistling a tune for all to hear.

Students who catch glimpses of the neuroscience senior have come to know him as “The Whistler.”

“People’s responses have been more on the good side,” Hicks said. “Rarely do I get anything negative.”

Onlookers smile, laugh and wave when they see him whistling, he said.

Some admire his courage.

“That guy’s got guts,” said continuing education student and Facilities Management worker Danny Berhane. “He stands out here and doesn’t care what others think about him. He deserves a lot of respect for that.”

St. Paul Outreach missionary Autumn Arguelles stopped to introduce herself to Hicks when she saw him performing Tuesday in front of Coffman Union.

“I heard him a few weeks ago and was impressed,” Arguelles said. “I was very surprised to find out that he’s not even a music major.”

Hicks said people have told him he brightened their day, which helps motivate him to continue what he is doing.

How it all began

Hicks said he began performing around campus last summer.

Hicks, who enjoys classical music, started whistling along to some of his favorite pieces until he eventually found that he was able to whistle whole classical pieces.

“I’m a big fan of Bach and Vivaldi,” he said.

“I practiced intensely for a year before I whistled out in public,” Hicks said.

Environmental science junior and friend Jason Carlson said most of Hicks’ friends are musicians. Not having an instrument to pick up when his friends played together might have helped Hicks realize his aptitude for whistling, he said.

Hicks said he trained for hours each day until he was able to perfect his whistling. He still continues to practice intensely.

“His favorite time to whistle is early in the morning,” said Carlson, who is also Hicks’ roommate.

Although Carlson doesn’t consider himself a morning person, the two remain good friends and have even discussed having Carlson accompany Hicks’ whistling with one of his three instruments, which are violin, mandolin and bass guitar.

“It’s a lot of effort and work to own whistling skills that produce flute sounds,” Hicks said.

But Hicks enjoys what he’s doing.

“If I don’t whistle every day, I get depressed,” Hicks said. “I have to get the whistle out of me. It’s an ache that just has to be relieved.”

Hicks said he whistles for purely selfish reasons.

“It’s like a lust in my body that demands a release,” Hicks said.

While he’s physiologically getting a buzz from the huge amount of oxygen that he takes in, he gets a high from being in the limelight, he said.

What next?

Along with performing around campus, Hicks can be found whistling at the Loring Pasta Bar in Dinkytown, where he works.

Hicks said he asked the saxophonist one day if he could perform during his breaks. The saxophonist said he could, and Hicks got his big break at the restaurant.

“I think it’s a nice, unique experience for diners,” he said.

But he is hoping to find other venues to share his whistling with a goal of becoming a “semiprofessional.”

“He should stand in front of a music hall where he can get more recognition for what he’s doing,” said Jeremy Wallin, an architecture senior.

With time, Hicks has been finding the tricks of the trade.

There are three products he uses that help aid his whistling endeavors – water, Chapstick and Hawaiian sweet rolls.

“They produce the perfect saliva consistency and make whistling a breeze,” Hicks said.

Hicks said he has long-term goals of producing a CD.

But for now, he will continue whistling around campus in hopes of getting positive responses from people passing by.