OSB’s Sunday Afternoon with a 107 Year Organist,The Franzini Family & Buster Keaton

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Rosa on the Tampa Theater organ

A Sunday afternoon with 107 year old Rosa Rio (she doesn’t look a day over 103 no kidding) at the Mighty Wurlitzer 1400 pipe Tampa Theatre Organ accompanying Buster Keaton’s silent film, “One Week,” I also got the chance to see The Franzini Family Vaudeville Revue-OSB’s History 101 Vaudeville was a variety of entertainment in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s in which each performance was made up of a series of separate, unrelated acts grouped together on a common Bill Acts included popular and classical musicians, dancers, comedians, trained animals, magicians, female and male impersonators, acrobats, one-act plays or scenes from plays, athletes, lecturing celebrities, minstrels, and movies. Vaudeville developed from many sources, including the concert saloon, minstrelsy, freak shows, dime museums and literary burlesque.

OSBs Sunday Afternoon with a 107 Year Organist, Franzini Family & Buster Keaton

The Franzini Family Vaudeville Revue
Variety Boy:  Doing what else but Variety
Liz Hollister:  Singer of Vaudeville Songs.
Lipi & Lizi Jugglers:  Jugglers & Comics
Tricky Eddie’s Magic: The Magic Man
“One Week” is one of Buster Keaton’s best shorts and with live musical accompaniment by Rosa Rio performing at the Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Organ. Buster Keaton and his bride receive a build-it-yourself house kit as a wedding present from The Old School Players.  The newlyweds set off to assemble their love nest in one week, but the bride’s rejected suitor Reform School Hank secretly re-numbered the packing crates.
Lipi & Rosy the Wonder Dog
  Undeterred by the baffling construction challenges, Buster concocts creative, hysterical, and some death-defying solutions without stunt doubles, camera tricks or CGI effects.
At 107 years Young (yes I said107!) Rosa continues to amaze and entertain Tampa Theatre audiences with her amazing talent and youthful energy.  
Rosa Rio born June 2nd 1902, New Orleans, Louisiana and was picking out melodies on the piano when four years old, & chording melodies at six. She had to wait until eight before a teacher would begin giving her music lessons, but was already adept at improvisation. When nine years old, she was asked to play piano accompaniment for a silent movie in a theatre, with the instructions "play loud & don't stop.
Hard to believe Rosa is 107 years old
"   Her father removed her from the bench with an admonition that "The theatre is no place for a girl."  Rosa had a different idea about that, though.
Rosa parents enrolled her at Oberlin College in Ohio, to prepare her for a career as a music teacher. While visiting an aunt in Cleveland, she for the first time saw a theatre organ rising from the pit & was enthralled. She then knew what she wanted to do.
The Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, established by Eastman Kodak magnate George Eastman, maintained "a department for special instruction in the art of motion picture accompaniment".   Rosa Rio enrolled there, & was a student of organist John Hammond. Later, Rosa Rio & John Hammond would marry.
After completing her instruction at the Eastman School of Music, Rosa Rio took her first job as theatre organ accompanist at a theatre in Syracuse, New York.
Well Deserved Flowers!!
  Next, she moved to New Orleans, studied piano with Vit Lubowski, & began her tenure with the Saenger theatres. She held the house organist position at Saenger's Strand in New Orleans, was a feature organist at the New Orleans Saenger Theatre, & toured all the Saenger houses.
Afterwards, she took a position at the Paramount theatre in Scranton, Pennsylvania, & in 1933 became the house organist at the Brooklyn Fox Theatre, playing the second-largest theatre organ built by Wurlitzer. When the Fox organ was retired, she played at the RKO Albee, Brooklyn Paramount, RKO Patio theatres, & the Crown Theatre in New London, Connecticut.   As the heyday of the theatre organ waned, Rosa Rio also worked as an accompanist & vocal coach for singers of operatic & popular music. One longtime friend, Mary Martin, got her big break at an audition accompanied by Rosa Rio: Mary Martin sang "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" for Cole Porter, & was cast in the Musical "Leave
But while live accompaniment of films diminished, radio was burgeoning with opportunities.
Rosa Fans
Radio drama utilized live accompaniment, there were fills & themes to play in newscasts, & entire programs of live music.
Rosa Rio was engaged to perform as a staff organist for the NBC radio network, & landed a staff assignment on New York ABC station WJZ.With just 60 seconds between shows, Rosa Rio races between studios at NBC in 1942.    With television's ascendancy, many radio programs folded or moved to the new medium.   Rosa Rio played a few shows for TV, including Appointment with Adventure, Bert & Harry, Brighter Day, Family Happiness, Mr. Jelly Beans, & the Today Show.   In 1960, having remarried, Rosa Rio moved to a new home in Connecticut. The house was outfitted with a large music room & recording  facilities, & it was the new base from which Rosa Rio continued to play, teach, publish musical arrangements, & record.
107 & Still Going Strong!! Play Loud, and Don't Stop.

Play Loud, and Don't Stop.
Rosa & her husband Bill live in Sun City just south of Tampa. 
It was a great afternoon trip back to the 1920 & 30’s in a theater that had this type of show & Rosa could have played at!!
If you are in Tampa Tampa Theater is a must see if Rosa Rio is playing I will see you there!!

oldschoolbill says:
Me too!! I would love to have the chance e to sit down & talk to her about all the changes she has seen!!
Posted on: Nov 15, 2010
sarahelaine says:
Gosh, I hope I have that much energy when I'm half her age! What an incredible lady.
Posted on: Nov 15, 2010
ik-ben-10eke says:
Amazing lady!
Posted on: Sep 03, 2009
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Rosa on the Tampa Theater organ
Rosa on the Tampa Theater organ
OSBs Sunday Afternoon with a 107 …
Lipi & Rosy the Wonder Dog
Lipi & Rosy the Wonder Dog
Hard to believe Rosa is 107 years …
Hard to believe Rosa is 107 years…
Well Deserved Flowers!!
Well Deserved Flowers!!
Rosa Fans
Rosa Fans
107 & Still Going Strong!!
Play L…
107 & Still Going Strong!! Play …
One Week
One Week
The Warm Up Guy
The Warm Up Guy
The WUG On the bach of a seat
The WUG On the bach of a seat
Variety Boy:
Variety Boy:
Liz Hollister:  Singer of Vaudevil…
Liz Hollister: Singer of Vaudevi…
Lipi & Lizi Jugglers
Lipi & Lizi Jugglers
Im still not sure what they were …
I'm still not sure what they were…
Lizi Hula Hooping
Lizi Hula Hooping
Tricky Eddie’s Magic
Tricky Eddie’s Magic
Bows from The Franzini Family Vaud…
Bows from The Franzini Family Vau…
Sing-A-Long
Sing-A-Long
Everybody Now
Everybody Now
Old Sign on Screen
Old Sign on Screen
One Week
One Week
Tampa Theater Organ
Tampa Theater Organ
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photo by: ejames01