Meet the calliope player aboard the world-famous Steamboat Natchez

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NEW ORLEANS-- Have you ever walked by the Mississippi River and heard the beautiful calliope music coming from the Steamboat Natchez?

The calliope player has been playing this unique instrument for nearly thirty years.   News with a Twist Reporter Kenny Lopez takes us aboard the Steamboat Natchez to meet her!

For the past 29 years Debbie Fagnano has been reporting to work on the Steamboat Natchez.  She's the calliope player.  What started out as her filling in ultimately became a permanent position for her and she loves it.  Many know her as "Ms. Calliope."

She said that back in 1988 she filled in for the calliope player one day, but after that day they never showed up for work, so that's how she got the gig.

"I don't want to ever stop.  It makes me happy to make everyone else happy through my music,"  she said.

Fagnano trained on the organ, piano, and keyboard for many years.

She explained that this calliope has 32 whistles, and that each whistle blows out a note of steam.

"You can see each note.  A puff of steam comes up.  It is a piece of plumbing that makes music," she said.

Debbie said that she loves her job, "It is my home away from home.  I never wake up and wish I didn't have to go to work."

The calliope gets the name after one of the Greek muses.

"It is like music is being blown across the city, the further away you away the better it will actually sound."

Over the years, she's played tunes like: "When the Saints Go Marching In," Zippity Doo Dah," and even Michael Jackson and Beatles songs.
Don't expect her to play Britney Spears songs anytime soon, though.

"Her songs don't really sound good on the calliope," she said.

Debbie's calliope tunes can be heard throughout the entire French Quarter and along the Mississippi.

"It really is the voice of the river," she said.

Debbie plays the calliope daily at 10:45 a.m., 1:45 p.m., and 5:30 p.m. aboard the Steamboat Natchez.

In addition to playing on the Steamboat Natchez, she's the musical director at Our Lady of Perpetual Help church in Belle Chasse.

For more information about the Steamboat Natchez, click HERE.

Watch as "Ms. Calliope" gives Twist Reporter Kenny Lopez a calliope lesson.

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