Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Name

Master of Music (MM)


Musicology (Music)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Deborah Schwartz-Kates

Second Committee Member

Karen Henson

Third Committee Member

Aleysia Whitmore

Fourth Committee Member

Maria Estorino


For generations, Latin Americans have carried with them components of their culture to the United States. Through transculturation, these elements have fused into mainstream American concert music, jazz, and popular music to create new genres. An important figure who brought with him the roots of his Cuban musical traditions was the pianist, composer, and arranger Marco Rizo (1920-98). His combination of Latin vernacular rhythms, mixed with the influence of Western art music and jazz, contribute to the diverse musical culture of the United States. Rizo left the island in 1940 and established a prominent US career as a composer, conductor, and performer. In the 1950s, his compositions and arrangements established the perfect background setting for the romantic comedy, I Love Lucy, whose storyline revolved around the marriage of the American actress, Lucille Ball, and the Cuban musician Desi Arnaz. Many of the comic insinuations in the story stem from the encounter of the two cultures as embodied in the music of Rizo himself, although regrettably the composer never received credit for his work and was forced to resign his copyright privileges to CBS. Moreover, Rizo’s contributions go far beyond Hollywood. Rizo developed an internationally diversified style through his collaborations with Ernesto Lecuona, Rosina Lhévinne, Igor Stravinsky, and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. In this paper, I will overview the highlights of Rizo’s musical life and career and examine his contributions to Latin American music in the United States. My research, based on primary sources in the New York Public Library, demonstrates that his achievements encompass an eclectic blend of creative activities. This study reveals Rizo’s position as a pronounced figure in the spread of Cuban culture and discloses his considerable influence on music of the United States—a topic that calls for detailed investigation.


Marco Rizo; Cuban music; I Love Lucy; Santiago de Cuba; television; cuban diaspora