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Archives On The Air 24: Silent Films, Famous Scores—The Rosa Rio Collection

Rick Walters
Boxes filled with archival collection material in one of the storage rooms at the American Heritage Center.

You may have heard Rosa Rio before on the radio, in soap operas, or in film, but not her voice – you would have heard her music. Rio was a composer whose best known works were in the silent film industry. An odd thing to be remembered for.

Rio’s real name was Elizabeth Raub and she performed as an organist in the entertainment industry until she was 107 years old.

If you watch The Phantom of the Opera, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, or The Birth of a Nation you will certainly hear her in the background

Her nickname was “Queen of the Soaps” for her organ music that accompanied 24 radio soap operas and her WWII radio show, “Rosa Rio Rhythms.”

She taught music schools in Connecticut in the 80s, and moved to Florida in the 90s to accompany silent films at the Tampa Theatre.

Rosa Rio’s sheet music, radio scripts, reviews, and articles about Rio are available at UW’s American Heritage Center.