Tuesday, May 01, 2001

Whistler makes music anywhere




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        Pucker up, I said, and let's see what everybody is raving about. Our waiter looked startled, but Emily Eagen knew exactly what I meant.

        Obligingly, with the briefest of smiles and absolutely no flourish, the International Women's World Champion Whistler moistened her instrument slightly and trilled an aria from Mozart's The Magic Flute. Dipping and soaring, the music swirled politely around the conversations nearby.

        Very beautiful. Very complicated. Very professional.

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Eagen
        Now 25, Emily has had a violin on one shoulder and her other hand on a piano since she was 3, whistling since the age of 5. With a master's degree in vocal performance, she hopes to continue study next year at the Royal Conservatory at The Hague, Netherlands.

        Meanwhile, she waits tables in Clifton and makes music whenever she gets a chance. She considers herself a singer, but whistling is not an inconsiderable part of her repertoire.

        For the second year in a row, she won first place at the International Whistlers Convention, beating out lip artists from Switzerland and Canada April 21-22 in Louisburg, N.C., to win $300, a trophy and the title. The competition is friendly, but sincere.

Lip balm and Gatorade

        “When you get there, they give you little packets of lip balm,” she says. That and Gatorade are her only competitive tools. Besides an impressive knowledge of music. She calls her pucker “the point of constriction” and says the years of voice training have helped her with breathing, giving her “a smooth, consistent way of supporting my sound.” She likes Gershwin, opera, jazz, Irving Berlin and “anything that soars, anything with motion and decoration.”

        The only competitor to whistle a cappella, Emily won for her renditions of “Autumn Leaves” and the aria from Rossini's La Cenerentola when Cinderella musically resigns her position as housemaid and turns in her broom. (No wonder this one soars.)

        Emily worried about performing without instrumental backup, but says “my dad gave me a pep talk.” A golfer and Tiger Woods fan, “he said a lot of stuff about being in the sand or the rough, which I didn't get. But finally I knew he was saying that in the heat of pressure, I should still be willing to take a risk.”

No frills

        Mike Eagen, an attorney with Dinsmore & Shohl, calls himself “Whistler's Father” and says now that his daughter has defended her title, she has been “term limited,” not allowed to compete again next year. Carolyn Eagen, a music teacher in the Northwest School District, has asked her daughter to teach the kids in her classes to whistle.

        “Whistling is a wonderful way for kids to make music,” Carolyn says. “You can do this on your own — without buying anything.”

        And your instrument, which is always handy, doesn't take up much space and is low maintenance. A little lip balm and you're good to go.

        Emily and I parted at the door of the restaurant, and she bounced off down the street, her long dark hair bobbing. Smiling. Maybe this is how you look when your parents approve of you and strangers have told you that you are the best in the world at something.

        Or maybe Emily just looks so happy because she can make music anywhere.

        E-mail lpulfer@enquirer.com. Past columns at Enquirer.com/columns/pulfer.

       



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