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Mary Ellen and Miss Wings
Mary Ellen
Tips 'n' Tales Newspaper Columnist with Miss Wings

Meow-zart, the Feline Virtuoso!
- Piano Playing Cat -
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Courtesy photos by Burnell Yow©
Music teacher, Betsy with Nora, her five-year-old, North American grey-bullseye tabby.
Nora is a world renowned piano-plinker, who is highly recognized on YouTube for her musical skills.


It is time to tune up your spirit with a happy tale! Most of our cats' specialty is sleeping 20 of the available 24 hours in a day! Not Nora! While most cats are catnapping, Nora is awake and sitting on the piano bench, playing the piano!

Nora's short life has spanned from homelessness to world-wide fame. Born a humble alley cat, she has risen to her unique position on her own merits and ingenuity! Her journey illustrates what hours of dedication can do.

Betsy Alexander and Burnell Yow adopted Nora from an animal shelter, not having any idea of their new kitty's destiny! They carried their bundle of joy into their home, which is filled with their art and musical instruments, including two giant grand pianos and five other cats.

Nora's rise to world recognition began naturally as she chased her reflection on top of Betsy's shiny Yamaha grand piano.

Betsy describes the scene, "When Nora was a kitten, she used to chase her reflection all the time. She would get so dizzy, she would fall off the piano. Now, as you can see in the video we posted on our Web site, when she gets dizzy, she switches directions! What a smart kitty she is!"

Then one day Betsy and Burnell were in their upstairs bedroom when they heard "someone" plunking away on the piano downstairs.

"Our other cats have walked on the keys, but this was different. We were hearing repeated notes. 'Plink, plink, plunk, plink,'" explains Burnell.

They went downstairs and were surprised to discover one-year-old Nora sitting in perfect posture with her two paws on the piano. Plink, plink, plunk, plink.

"She sat there looking up at us with her beautiful green eyes, and began playing again," says Burnell. Plink, plink, plunk, plink.

Betsy adds, "We praised her, and she continued playing. As musicians, seeing a cat sitting at a piano playing had us both in awe and laughing. At the time, we did not know that this was going to become her daily habit. Some of Nora's solo concerts have gone on for longer than 15 minutes. She favors the sound of the high notes over the low ones and can play more than one note at a time. It is funny seeing her playing duets with my students during their we say, 'Practice makes purr-fect!'"

It all started too simply. Nora's chosen room for napping and visiting was the music room where Betsy teaches piano lessons. Nora obviously learned from the students' example! Nora has been playing for more than four years now, and her plinking has evolved into more complex musical creations.

Nora plays without coaxing. It is the way this feline virtuoso focuses her skill so passionately that sets Nora apart from other cats. Maybe it was the 1950's song "Alley Cat" or the movie theme, "The Pink Panther" that inspired her?

According to Betsy, "Nora's favorite tune is Bach Minuet in G., and after a year, she has not tired of playing the piano. Nora is temperamental, solitary, strong-willed, and thrives on attention, just like any other famous classical composer. We are not sure what inspired her obsession with the piano. Possibly, it's because cats are very sensitive to sound and vibration. Sometimes, Nora rests her head on the keys, as if she is feeling the vibration," explains Betsy.

Betsy's observations are excellent, as scientists have proven that a cat's hearing is more sensitive than a human's.

Nora, has struck a musical chord world-wide; she redefines what cats are capable of as TV, radio, and magazine reporters scramble to interview her.

How famous is Nora? She has her own Web page, blog, Facebook fan club, and MySpace page. She has appeared on Animal Planet TV...twice! A Japanese TV station traveled to witness Nora in action, and she's appeared on the CBS Early Show, Martha Stewart, VH1'S Best Week Ever, Ellen Degeneres, and the Tyra Banks Show.  Conan O'Brien created a very funny skit using a Nora stand-in.

Betsy and Burnell videotaped their piano-playing cat to show her off to their skeptical friends and posted it on YouTube. To date, more than 17 million viewers have enjoyed her videos.
People have been e-mailing Nora from all over the world. Yes, Nora can play the piano, but she cannot type. So, if you write to her...don't expect a return letter anytime soon!

Could Nora be composing…possibly "A Catnap Sonata" or "The Bow-Wow Boggy"? Her best composing happens when all the students leave for the night and as a temperamental artist, she begins to tickle the ivories with her soft paws. "It sounds like jazz," Betsy says proudly.

Nora has us wondering what talents other cats and dogs in shelters may have! Stories of rescued shelter pets saving their guardian's lives appear regularly in the media, but piano playing is a first!

There are a few problems that come with a cat in a music studio. Nora climbs inside students' music bags and guitar cases. Then she refuses to get out when the students want to put their instruments away. Also, some students' parents become irritated when Nora plays during their children's lessons.

Betsy reports that Nora has recently gained a little weight, and they have restricted her to food twice a day instead of leaving it out all day. "She is a bit annoyed about this, but she is still playing away."  At this time, Nora has no plans to take her show on the her own fickle-cat nature...she doesn't like car rides!

Listen to Nora Tickle the Ivories.
Watch her paw the 88's and 'Plink-Plunk' away!


Tip for pets desiring adoption: bat your beautiful eyes, or play with your new guardian's jewelry or long braid...your new parents will instantly fall in love with you as Betsy and Burnell did Nora.  All shelter pets have hidden talents, the most common one is love.
 Mary Ellen- Update
Nature's Pathways
The March 2009,Wisconsin's Nature's Pathways; Your Path to Healthy Living magazine, has an article on Mary Ellen "Angel Scribe". 
Long time Angel Scribe reader and The Inner Voice columnist Nancy Freier wrote, "It's a Wonderful (Miracle) Life." featuring Mary Ellen and her Angelic work.  Nature's Pathways contains articles on healthy livestyles, recycling,  clean energy, supplements, pet health care, and homeopathy etc.
Feline Wellness 
The Spring 2009  issue of Feline Wellness
features Mary Ellen's article on outdoor enclosures for cats.
Complete with a photo of Nymbus, Myster E. and Whyspurr!
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