Piano-Playing Cat a Media Sensation
Nora, a 5-year-old cat, has made it big across the Internet with her not-so-hidden talent: she enjoys playing the piano, and does so every chance she gets. (Photo Courtesy of Betsy Alexander and Burnell Yow)
While most cats will settle for a toy mouse or scratching post, one Philadelphia-based cat, named Nora, has taken her play habits to an oddly professional level. Taking cues from her owners, who are both musicians, Nora plays the piano, both by herself and while accompanying others. Nora's musical ambitions have helped her develop an international fan base and regular media appearances.
PHILADELPHIA -- Nora, a 5-year-old cat, is one of six cats living in her Philadelphia home.
The rescue cat has found her own way to stand out, though, to her pet parents, Betsy Alexander and Burnell Yow, who are both visual artists and musicians.
Nora likes to play the piano. She will sometimes spend hours by Alexander's side while she gives piano lessons to young students.
"From the very beginning, during the day, most of the cats would be in the bedroom upstairs sleeping with each other," Alexander said. "Nora would remain downstairs with the students. She could be the boss in that environment, and that became her domain. She would just sit on the top of the piano."
With time, Nora became accustomed to the push of the pedal and strike of the keys -- eventually, she decided to experiment with her own musical abilities.
"We hear this sound while we are upstairs, and instead of the walking across the keys, it's repeated notes, and it's going kind of like, 'duh, duh, duh, duh,' " Alexander explained.
"We go downstairs and Nora is sitting on the piano chair ... and playing, just playing like a little person. And we are like, 'Wow, Nora, that's so cool!' "
Nora was not as fazed by her talent, though.
"And it looked like she was sort of going like, 'So, well, yeah, like what, so, yeah?' And she looked back at the piano and started doing it more. She has not stopped since," Alexander recalled.
That was nearly four years ago -- Nora is not a novice anymore, and likes to spend as much time as she can practicing new tunes. Her performances don't actually sound like songs, in a traditional sense, but her playing has, Alexander says, become more complex over the years.
The cat, who favors Bach, has also mastered playing single notes -- a difficult task for a "big fat bowling ball of a cat," with paws to match -- and tries to hit the black keys, as well as the white, to shake things up a bit.
Nora appears aware of the attention her playing creates.
"As you could imagine, when Nora started to play, my students were delighted," Alexander said. "People started bringing their friends and neighbors and she was like a little celebrity. She has always loved the camera."
Nora will sometimes play alongside Alexander's students on an adjacent piano. The pupils are warned beforehand, Alexander says, that Nora does not like to be disturbed while she is playing -- it is the the only time she will try to bite someone.
She also performs solo shows, from time to time, and actually tends to conduct her best performances when she is alone.
"The best playing, the most elaborate playing she will do is when we are not in the room. It's really exciting. We will be down in the art studio and you'll hear, it sounds like there is a jazz musician upstairs," Alexander explained.
Alexander and Yow decided to publicly showcase Nora's talent online and posted one video of her playing on YouTube nearly two years ago. The clip continues to bring in viewers, who can also watch several other videos that were later posted.
The Philadelphia couple were surprised at how quickly Nora's productions took off -- on the first day the video was posted, it yielded 71 hits. Once that number began to push 100,000, "the media got interested," Alexander said.
Television stations from as far as Japan have traveled to witness Nora in action. She has appeared on the Tyra Banks Show, CBS' Early Show, VH1'S Best Week Ever and Late Night with Conan O'Brien, among other shows.
Alexander continues to receive e-mails and calls from across the world -- this week alone, she said, she heard from admirers in Paris, Southern England and Texas.
"They just tell me how they love it and how she put a smile on their faces," Alexander said.
Seeing is believing in this unique story, though.
To view Nora's original videos, visit RavensWingStudio.com.
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