Lineman Can Whistle a Happy Tune

By Liam Dillon
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Lake Braddock junior lineman Blair Haggett started whistling when he was 2 years old. Six years later, his parents had enough.

"My parents always noticed that I was whistling so much and they would eventually get tired of it, so they tried to find some kind of outlet," Haggett said. "The best thing they could find was a contest down in North Carolina."

In 1998, organizers of the Louisburg, N.C.-based International Whistlers Convention were so impressed by Haggett's demo tape that they invited the 8-year-old to take part in the group's annual competition.

It didn't take him long to make his mark. In his first performance, Haggett won the children's championship, highlighted by a rendition of the "William Tell Overture."

Haggett's success launched a whirlwind tour of the whistling circuit, including an appearance on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" later that year. In 1999, Haggett defended his title in North Carolina, then won the youth division title at the Millennium World Championships of Musical Whistling in Edmonton, Alberta, performing with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra in the process.

But what would a whistler be without a Whistler's Mother? Haggett's mom, Barbara Wrigley had a big impact on his development, serving as his coach. The pair would spend mornings improving techniques such as stage presence, pitch and pacing -- all critical in the judging process.

"We were always working together when we were driving back and forth to school," Wrigley said. "He would whistle away the entire time, over and over again."

Despite his talent, Haggett, 16, stopped whistling publicly after winning his fourth championship in 2002, choosing instead to focus on playing football and wrestling. Now, even though friends wheedle him to perform, Haggett demurs, a bit embarrassed by the skill.

"[My friends] always ask me to, but I never do performances," Haggett said. "Not even for my girlfriend."

But if Lake Braddock can reverse its fortunes on the football field this year -- last season the team went 0-10 -- it wouldn't be shocking to hear at least one Bruin sounding his satisfaction.

"I can always tell if Blair's happy," his mom said. "Even when he's doing his chores, if Blair's whistling, then we know that he's happy."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company