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Cat Defender

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Symphony Builds Its Beloved Mascot, Miss Widget, the Best Little Cat House in Texas

"There are two means of refuge from the misery of life: music and cats."
-- Albert Schweitzer

When the Dallas Wind Symphony (DWS) decided earlier this year to overhaul its antiquated sixty-eight-year-old administrative headquarters in the Fair Park Bandshell it was not about to neglect the needs of its resident feline, Miss Widget.

As the result, she now has her very own penthouse high atop a post decorated with sheet music from Gustav Holst's First Suite in E-Flat. (See photos above and below.) That, incidentally, was the first composition ever performed by the fifty-piece woodwind, brass, and percussion band that specializes in an eclectic mix of classical music and marches.

The renovation project, which featured the installation of new carpeting, furniture, and ceiling fans as well as improvements to the windows, was a collaborative effort of the DWS, students from the Art Institute of Dallas, and the Dallas chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). The students even held a "Best Little Cat House in Texas" competition in order to select the design of Miss Widget's privileged perch.

The office alterations as well as the construction of her new abode were, quite naturally, supervised by none other than Miss Widget herself. "When we had our first meeting at the Dallas Wind Symphony office, it became clear that Miss Widget was in charge of things there," ASID's R. Scott Frelick admitted to The Dallas Morning News on August 30th. (See "Dallas Wind Symphony's Office Cat Gets High-Style Home.") "As an animal lover, it was important to me that we made sure to include her in our design."

Miss Widget, who is now ten years old, was rescued from the Dallas Country Club in 1998 by the symphony's founder and executive director, Kim Campbell. She is now an indispensable member of band's staff and she even replies to inquiries from her adoring fans at widget@dws.org.

"It's fun having her," Lee Papert, director of development, said in a video available on The Dallas Morning News' web site. "She's great in the office."

As a testimony to the transformative power of cats, Papert admits that although he was not a cat person when he first came to work at DWS, he is definitely one now. He also feels that he is a more productive worker because he can interrupt his toils in order to socialize with Miss Widget.

The DWS, which has played before more than a million patrons since its inception back in 1985, seems to have taken to heart Albert Schweitzer's declaration that "there are two means of refuge from the misery of life: music and cats." Lovers of fine literature would no doubt say the same thing about their cats and books.

Photos: Natalie Caudill of The Dallas Morning News.