Professional whistler, storyteller to performHigh school is a time when many young people start thinking about their careers. A student who likes science might resolve to become a doctor. A kid who’s good at math might consider becoming an accountant.
And then there was young Andy Offutt Irwin, who decided to become a professional whistler.
Irwin came from a family that was preternaturally good at whistling, but it wasn’t until a band director talked about his whistle as an instrument that the young musician realized his strange talent might be lucrative.
“With all seriousness, he said, ‘You need to work on phrasing and intonation,’” Irwin recalls. “And then he walked off. He treated me like a real musician, and that’s why I really started working at it.”
As a professional whistler, Irwin has performed chamber music with the Kandinsky Trio and worked as a session artist, recording in a studio in Atlanta.
“It’s small-time show business,” he says with a laugh. “And all of us in small-time show business have to wear a lot of hats.”
Irwin, a fan favorite at the National Storytelling Festival, is sure to wear many hats during his upcoming storytelling residency in Jonesborough on July 3-7.
Over the course of the week, he’ll offer daily matinees at 2 p.m. at the International Storytelling Center.
All performances will feature a range of stories from Irwin’s considerable repertoire, including new yarns about his most popular character, Marguerite van Camp, M.D., and a wide variety of personal tales.
Tickets are $12 for adults and $11 for seniors, students and children.
In addition to his regular matinees, Irwin will host a special concert, “Proper Etiquette for Practical Jokes,” at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 5.
Tickets are $15.
While the program features Marguerite, it is based on real-life antics from Irwin’s student days, when he was “cramming four years of college into six years.”
“Marguerite’s” approach to the art of the practical joke is simple.
“The rule is that you disturb a huge population rather than hurt individual feelings,” Irwin explains. “That includes creating undeniable ghosts, which I have actually done in real life. I created a ghost at Georgia College that people still talk about.”
Dollars to donuts that ghost likes to whistle.
For more information, call 913-1276.