Nora, the overnight YouTube sensation and the most talented feline pianist by far, is on Love Meow today. Nora's human dad, Burnell Yow is giving Love Meow all the inside scoop on Nora's life and the stories behind her success as the most beloved cat pianist.
Amy: Nora has the most impressive musical skills I have ever seen in a cat. When did she start playing piano?
Burnell: Nora began sitting at the piano and playing repeated notes, even reaching for the black keys, at around one year old.
Amy: I have heard that Nora is a self-taught prodigy. What inspired her to start playing piano in the first place?
Burnell: According to animal behaviorist Beth Adelman, Nora probably began playing because she observed Betsy's students and the attention and praise they received from Betsy - and she wanted that same kind of attention. Nora also plays at times when Betsy is not in the room, which to me indicates that she also plays just for the pleasure of it.
Amy: What was it like when you first saw her play? How did you react?
Burnell: We were both shocked. We were upstairs in the bedroom when we heard a series of repeated notes. We immediately came down the stairs to the piano studio and discovered Nora sitting on the bench with perfect posture and both paws on the keys.
Amy: It seems that Nora is adept at free-styling when it comes to music. Has she composed any songs?
Burnell: I guess that what Nora does would be best described as a kind of jazz improvisation. She does favor specific areas of the keyboard. And certain themes seem to be repeated from time to time.
Amy: What does Nora like to do besides playing piano?
Burnell: She's just your typical cat, and loves to sleep, eat and play with cat toys and her good friend, Rennie.
Amy: I think the most unbelievable thing is how Nora picked up her piano skills and developed her own musical repertoire. Do you think there are people that contributed to her success?
Burnell: Certainly Betsy. And all of Betsy's students, whom Nora observed playing on a daily basis.
Amy: What's in Nora's mind when she is playing?
Burnell: She seems to craves attention, and she loves to be in the center of whatever is going on. I'm afraid that only she knows for sure what's going on in her mind, and she express that best through her playing.
Amy: Does she get nervous when there is an audience around watching her play?
Burnell: No. Not at all. She loves an audience, whether playing or simply posing for the camera.
Amy: Nora looks so adorable in the videos. How would you describe her personality?
Burnell: She's rather bossy, especially with the other cats. She's doesn't like to be held and only tolerates being petted on the head.
Amy: Do you think Nora is a gifted cat?
Burnell: I think she's very talented, but I think all cats and people, for that matter, possess tremendous untapped potential.
Amy: Whose idea was the CATcerto? How did you guys come about doing an orchestra performance featuring Nora's music? I have to say it was absolutely brilliant.
Burnell: The CATcerto was the brainchild of composer/conductor Mindaugas Piecaitus. He contacted us all the way from Lithuania about creating a piece of music based on Nora's playing.
Amy: Nora was on NBC's Today Show in August. How was it? Did she enjoy having the camera crew around?
Burnell: It was a little nerve-wracking. It was the first time that Nora would be on live TV, and we didn't know for sure whether she would play or not. Fortunately, she did sit on the bench and play a few notes. We were all very relieved. Nora only plays when she is in the mood to play. She's very independent. She loves the attention of the many film crews who have come to record her amazing story.
Amy: What is it like for Nora on a typical day?
Burnell: If it's a day with students, Nora will be at the piano most of the day, sometimes playing, sometimes stretched out and napping on the bench. Betsy has two pianos, so Nora can be at one and the student plays on the other. If there are no students, Nora pretty much does what all her siblings are doing - sleeping in a cozy spot.
Amy: I learned that Nora has a playroom. Who designed it? What does Nora think about it?
Burnell: The playroom is actually just the piano studio. It's a very colorful place with two pianos and a lot of art on the walls. All of our seven cats enjoy being there.
Amy: How many cats do you have? Can they all play some sort of musical instrument?
Burnell: At the moment, we have seven cats. There's Nora, Gabby, Clara, Rennie, Max, Ellie, and Jenny.
Amy: Nora has been getting so much public attention since the launch of her first video. Do you think Nora is proud of herself?
Burnell: I don't know. She's seems quite happy to be doing what she's doing. We are certainly proud of her, and we are very pleased that her videos have touched the hearts of so many people around the world.
Amy: How does she react to all the fame she is getting?
Burnell: She takes it all in stride. After a film crew leaves, she just has a snack and a drink of water, then stretches out for a nap.
Amy: What do you think Nora's plans are in her future musical pursuit?
Burnell: To keep on playing and sharing her unique ability with her world of fans and friends.
Amy: Does Nora have a shop where we can buy things about her?
Burnell: Yes. We did add many Nora-inspired items to our CafePress store like tote bags, mugs, t-shirts and more. You can get there from her website at http://www.ravenswingstudio.com/NoraWeb/nora_home.html
Amy: Did you show the CATcerto performance video to Nora and the rest of the cats in the house? If so, how did they react?
Burnell: We haven't done that yet, but we are thinking about it. It would be interesting to see her reaction.
Amy: Are there any plans for Nora to have more performances with Mindaugas or other composers down the road? Will Nora perform live on stage some day?
Burnell: We are open to many more collaborations in the future. As far as performing "live" on stage. That probably won't happen. She prefers her own piano and the comfort and safety of her own home. And since she plays according to her mood, and not on demand, it's best if she remains a "studio musician."
Amy: How much time does Nora spend on playing piano each day? Does she practice often?
Burnell: It varies. She plays most days, especially if Betsy has students. She loves to play duets with them.
Amy: Do other cats interrupt her when she plays?
Burnell: Not usually. She doesn't tolerate interruptions. And she's very possessive of the piano.
Amy: Many cats may leave the piano room when someone starts playing because of how loud and powerful the instrument is. How come Nora seems to be so comfortable with the piano?
Burnell: Even as a kitten, she hung around the piano - on top of it, under it (where it really is loud). I guess she just likes the sound.
Check out Nora's website at http://www.ravenswingstudio.com/NoraWeb/nora_home.html