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Teacher Spotlight: Can you hear the death whistle?

Eileen Wisniowicz, Editor

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Imagine yourself sitting in your religion class, going about your normal day, taking notes for that upcoming test you want to ace and hearing the words “death whistle”…

Well, it’s enough to make any student stop writing and look up at World Religions teacher Mr. Szczepkowski, better known as Mr. Sep. He, of course, didn’t miss a beat, as the death whistle has been regular part of his curriculum. Mr. Sep has admitted that he is amused every year when he sees the bewildered looks of students’ faces at the mention of this ancient instrument.

The death whistle is an Aztec instrument, hence the teaching of it in World Religions at Nazareth. It was used by the Aztecs to strike fear into their enemies because when played, its sound resembles that of horrified screams. It became known by all Aztec enemies that when this whistle was heard, death was following in close pursuit.

This lesson on death whistles would be interesting enough, but it’s reportedly even more interesting when Mr. Sep brings out his very own death whistle and plays it!

Mr. Sep came across this instrument when he was researching ancient religious instruments last fall. He thought the sound would capture students’ attention, and he was right. “The students were amazed by how scary and awful and interesting and beautiful it was,” shared Mr. Sep.

He went on to share how he got his hands on the whistle in the first place: it was four former students who bought it for him for Christmas. He says, “I hadn’t expected the whistle as a gift and was humbled and wowed. It was an honor to see my course having such an impact on students where they actually followed through on the commitment of purchasing the instrument.”

Mr. Sep said that while he is aware that one is able to play notes on the death whistle, he doesn’t really know how to play it but is thinking about looking into some lessons. As of right now his focus is to make it “loud and as scary as possible.”

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