Christopher Ulllman: Whistling his Own Tune!
By Bob Tagert
Christopher Ullman: Whistling his Own Tune!
After 30 years, I am still amazed at all of the incredible individuals we have met writing this Personality Profile column and this month is no exception. Chris Ullman is a Managing Director and the Director of Global Communications for the Carlyle Group, an asset management company based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the Carlyle Group, Chris was Director of Communications at he U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Public Affairs Director and Spokesman for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, but more than anything, Chris is a four-time national and international whistling champion.
Conservatively dressed in his suit and bowtie, I found out that there is much more to this man than his appearance. Who would think that he rides a motorcycle and whistles happy birthday to over 400 people a year and has performed with major symphony orchestras, serenaded President George W. Bush in the Oval Office and whistled the national anthem at major league sporting events. In fact, the day this issue hits the street on June 28th, Chris will be performing the national anthem at the Washington National’s baseball game against the Chicago Cubs.
Chris grew up in Massapequa Park in New York. With instruction from his dad, Chris began his whistling career at the age of five. In grade school he took up the drums, at age 13 he began to take whistling more serious and in high school he joined the choir. “Most people view whistling as a novelty,’ he tells me. To Chris, this is serious business as he has performed with more than a dozen symphony orchestras.
Happy birthday is by far the number that he performs most. “I whistle happy birthday for friends, family, strangers in restaurants, you name it.” At our meeting at Landini’s Restaurant here in Old Town, Chris gave a short performance for me and other friends. Chris also likes performing jazz and the blues because it gives him a chance to improvise and become creative.
As much as others like to be entertained by Chris, he in return, has derived a lot of pleasure and purpose in life through his whistling. He recently wrote a book about some of his encounters over the years and encourages others to “Find Your Whistle”, the title of his new book. “Everyone has a gift”, he tells me. “Each of us must find that gift and then share it with the world.”
“These stories remind me to make the most of the gifts God has given me, because we never know when hardship or tragedy will strike. On a daily basis, they help me keep life in perspective and appreciate the tasty fruit smoothie and egg sandwich I have most mornings. If the greatest hardship I have today is dealing with bad traffic or a challenging person at work, then I’m doing pretty well. And those times when I face serious struggles, I’m reminded that if I dig deeper, I’ll likely find untapped reserves of energy, insight, and hope,” he says.
“In this spirit, Find Your Whistle started out as a collection of lessons learned from my nearly half-century whistling journey. But two years into the process of thinking and writing, I came to a humbling conclusion: I’m not a hero, therefore my moral authority in terms of “lessons learned” was minimal.’
“Yes, I’ve done lots of sweet, crazy, outrageous, and poignant things through my pucker, but none of them are heroic. I haven’t scaled Mt. Everest blind, cured or conquered cancer, survived weeks at sea in a small raft, overcome terrific hardship or addiction, made or lost a billion dollars, or eaten raw shark liver. I’m not a hero-just a whistler,” Chris continued.
In reading Find Your Whistle you will learn a lot about Chris Ullman, but even more, you will learn about yourself. There are real life experiences we have all had that make it possible to find our own whistle!