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Meet Our 2015 Contestants!

2017 Contestants TBA



Steve Herbst

Steve Herbst has been dazzling audiences with his artistic whistling for over 50 years. He has won every prestigious award at the International Whistlers Convention and Competition including:  Grand Champion (judged for highest marks in Classical and Popular Music Categories), the first man to be named Whistling Entertainer of the Year three times; and he was named to the Whistlers Hall of Fame.  


He also served as the emcee for the 40th and last IWC in Louisburg, North Carolina. He has performed around the USA and the world from Europe to Japan at such venues as Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher and Alice Tully Halls at Lincoln Center, and was  the first whistler to be invited to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.


He was featured in and narrated the award-winning feature-length documentary film, “Pucker-Up – The Fine Art of Whistling.” He is especially proud of having been invited to perform seven times with the late, great Les Paul at the Iridium Jazz Club on Broadway and a guest appearance at the world-famous Cotton Club in Harlem, plus numerous appearances at Ashford & Simpsons’ Sugar Bar.


He has been a guest on the Today Show, CBS Morning Show, CBS Sunday Morning, and Good Morning America along with just about every TV news show on every channel in the New York metro area and countless radio shows around the world including the BBC from London. Feature stories about his whistling have run in The New York Times, Daily News, New York Post, and Newsday, Ft. Lauderdale Sun, and The Chicago Tribune and Ad Age.


You may have seen TV commercials he’s done for Verizon or Eight O’Clock Coffee or heard his whistling used in TV shows such as “Malcolm In The Middle.”


His debut CD, Broadway And Beyond, features 15 Broadway Show tunes plus his signature piece, Danny Boy (the “and beyond” selection). For more information, please visit his website: or check out several YouTube videos!

Francesco Bonifazi

Francesco blends his guitar, vocals & champion whistling to make exciting new Americana music - combining folk, country, rock blues and sometimes a touch of jazz.

"As one of the world's premiere whistlers, Francesco is in effect his own Stradivarius." - David Amram composer/conductor/instrumentalist.

Internet DJ Dr. Mike Metheny ( was so impressed he featured "Air Play" for a month. "Francesco's debut CD "Air Play" is a cool name for what it is, and I dig it. 

In addition to winning 1st place at the 2003 International Whistling Convention, Francesco has performed throughout the US and Europe.

A frequent radio guest, he has appeared on the SKY Satellite TV Network, "CBS Sunday Morning," the BBC, and PBS. 

Gaizka Lasa

Gaizka Lasa is an amateur whistler with large aspirations and the ambition to become a recognized figure in the art. He began whistling at the age of 10, intrigued by his father’s talent during long road trips in the 90s (when it was still cool), and decided that he wanted to learn it himself. 


Gaizka continued his love of music as a trumpet player in marching band throughout high school and college at The University of Oklahoma. He leveraged his talent as a means to practice highly technical trumpet parts in order to hear and perform music at a higher level. As a result, he earned a music scholarship, which he used to help pay for his Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering. 


Today, Gaizka works in oil and gas in Houston, Texas. He continues to whistle particularly on long car rides commuting to and from work as well as to an audience of friends and family, an empty apartment, and even his dog, Mozart. He is delighted to have an appreciative audience as he performs for you all during this festival, and hopes you enjoy his 


George N. Oldfield 

George N. Oldfield (78), Resident of Riverside, CA, is a retired Research Entomologist who has whistled (primarily pucker style) for as long as he can remember, having first heard fine melodic whistling from his ten-year-older brother, Frank, and likely trying to imitate him from early childhood. 


After mastering a few simple tunes on the violin at age five, gave it up and never received further musical training nor participated in any organized musical activities until he retired in 2000 and decided to ''come out of the whistlers closet" and participate at the International Whistlers Convention.


After a couple tries at competing, managed to whistle well enough to qualify to compete as a finalist a few years ago.  George feels that his "greatest" contribution to the whistling community is that he whistled the same popular song at IWC so many times that the organizers changed the rules to limit such a thing!! 


Although none of his three grown children are melodic whistlers, many years ago, as his youngest pulled herself to a wobbly standing position in her play pen just short of her first birthday (anyone remember those relics of the past?) she treated her astounded daddy to a fine single-note pucker whistle....several times!!


Nearly every morning for about thirty years starting in the early nineteen eighties, George popped up at 5 AM and whistled his way along a nearly four-mile trail around a mountain behind his house before heading for work. In his case, George not only "whistled while he worked" (sometimes to the consternation of fellow employees) but managed to practice his whistling on his trek up the mountain.


The last few years, George's musical activities have mostly been limited to singing and whistling as a volunteer with the Riverside Braille Club's chorus and performing at yearly senior talent shows at a local senior center. 

Yasunori Okuno

Yasunori Okuno was born in Kyoto, Japan, 1985.


He graduated from Kyoto University, 2009.


Yasunori received the 11th place in Adult Division (Male) of International Whistlers Convention, 2008; 8th place at All Japan Whistling Music Contest, 2009; and was invited to show up on Chukyo-TV program, "Meet Audrey!", 2013.


Yasunori joined Japan Mensa: the society for people with an IQ in the top 2% of the population, 2012.

David Santucci

Dave Santucci is a professional whistler from Southern California.  He's been whistling for more than forty years, since before he could tie his own shoes. 


Dave's whistling has been featured in commercials, various independent music projects, and you can even hear his whistling in casinos--he provided the whistling for the video slot machine "Family Vacation."  Most recently, Dave's soulful whistling rendition of "Home on the Range" was featured in "Homes on the Range," a full length documentary currently airing nationwide on PBS in the United States. 


Dave's currently approaching two million views on his whistling videos on his YouTube channel whistlersbrother, and his album of original whistling music "My Lucky Day" is available on iTunes and Amazon.  Dave Santucci has never participated in a whistling competition before, so he is extremely excited to be a part of Masters of Whistling.

Makiko Mizuno
Kimiko Wakiyama

Kimiko Wakiyama was born in Fukuoka, Japan.


While she was a student at Music College, she started performing in original style called ''Hikifuki'', which means whistling while playing the piano.


In 2007, Kimiko Wakiyama won the women's grand championship at the International Whistlers Convention (IWC) in North Carolina; she was first among Japanese whistlers. In 2009, she won the Entertainer Of The Year award.


In 2014, she was a judge at Convention in Japan (IWC). She released a CD called ''Whistling Paradise'' from a major record company. Kimiko teaches whistling classes and has her own whistling tutorial book.


Without being bound by the general image of whistling, Kimiko thrives. She composes and records music as well as  performs live on TV and radio. Kimiko is considered one of the pioneers of musical whistling in Japan.


You can find more information about Kimiko on her website at

Ryosuke Takeuchi

Ryosuke was born in Tokyo, Japan. He learned the "Warbling" method (whistling with a trill) from the professional whistler Geert Chatrou and also studied under professional whistler Kimiko Wakiyama before starting his own whistling career.

In 2008, Ryosuke was director of events for the International Whistlers Convention (IWC) in Japan. 


In 2010 and 2012, he organized the Whistling Festa "Puckerama!" in Japan. In 2012, he released his CD "Baroque Whistling – Ballet Des Champs-Élysées -".

In 2013, he won second place in the Allied Arts category at the International Whistlers Convention in the US.

In 2014, he again served as event director for the International Whistlers Convention (IWC) in Japan.

At this time he is planning to establish a whistling event "The World Whistling Convention" in Japan in 2016. This event aims to inherit the style of the original International Whistlers Convention.

Ryosuke gives live concerts almost every month and has been featured on radio as well as on TV and he likes to perform many different kinds of music, such as Popular, Jazz and Classical while always trying to find new possibilities for the art of whistling.

Ryosuke invented some iPhone applications for the practice of whistling, called the "WhistleTuner" and "WhistleTutor". They are useful for checking the pitch and training for long breathing. For more information, please visit Ryosuke's website at


Molly Lewis

Molly Lewis has been researching the history and language of the whistle, performing when possible around Los Angeles, contributing to film scores and collaborating with various musicians.


She is working on many whistling projects, and holds the award of the “Person Who Came From Furthest Away” to compete at the International Whistling Competition, 2012, where she performed in the finals.

Max Saltarelli

Max Saltarelli is the whistlin’ underdog of the season! Born and raised in Orange, California, Max comes from a family that loves to whistle and grew up with a keen fondness for soulful music.


The Masters of Musical Whistling is Max’s competitive debut, though he has performed in Los Angeles with dear friend and fellow competitor Molly Lewis, as well as provided background whistling for a holiday commercial for Target featuring Karen O. Max’s whistling persona is Private Whistler. Cheers to all and may you blow always!

Laura Loftsgaarden 

Laura Loftsgaarden first began whistling when she was eight years old, and enjoys whistling pop songs that are usually not expected to be whistled.  She has competed numerous times in the International Whistler's Convention in Louisburg, North Carolina, and has placed as high as second in the female division.


She has also placed second in the female division of the World Millennium Whistling Championships in Edmonton, Canada.  


She is a member of Susan Silton's all-female performance group, The Crowing Hens and is currently producing an animated series on YouTube featuring whistling of popular music.

Terry Rappold

My name is Terry Rappold.


I began whistling for my own personal enjoyment at the age of five.  As an adult, in 2001, I entered my first competition at the International Whistlers Convention held in Louisburg, NC.  Over the next 10 years, I worked hard to develop my skills and style and was fortunate to win the Male International Grand Champion award both in 2007 and 2011.


I released my first CD whistling recording in November 2007, entitled,

"New Orleans WhiSOULING".  WWOZ, a New Orleans based radio station airs my recordings frequently.  I was a featured performer on CBS New Orleans Morning Show in 2005 and 2008.

I also appeared in a segment of CBS News Sunday with Charles Osgood in 2003.


You can learn more about me by visiting my website,

Eric Gradman

Eric Gradman is an inventor & entertainer who makes others see technology as magic. He has a colorful history as a circus performer, whistler & roboticist.


Eric designs and builds cutting-edge entertainment technology products that will blow your mind. He is at the forefront of a revolution in personal manufacturing tools that make inventing accessible to all.


He is cofounder of Two Bit Circus: a Los Angeles idea factory inventing the future of fun. He is one of the brains behind the STEAM Carnival, re-imagining the carnival with robots, lasers, and fire.


His interactive artwork has been exhibited at LACMA, Sundance Film Festival, The Leonardo, Mindshare.LA and the TED Conference.

Ryan O'Dowd

Ryan O’Dowd was a finalist at the 40th International Whistlers Convention in 2013. He could whistle since he was very young and became serious about his whistling about three years ago. He works as a software engineer for LunchBunch in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

Makiko Mizuno is a mother of three children, a former women's professional boxer and occupation manipulative teacher.


In conjunction with health and whistling, she launched a whistle therapy. She is mostly active on YouTube. You can watch her videos here

The Masters of Musical Whistling is the first musical whistling contest in Makiko's career.


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