© 2024 WXXI Public Broadcasting, 280 State St. Rochester, NY 14614, (585) 325-7500
Celebrating 50 years on FM 91.5
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
If you look at the listings of the major orchestras in America you will see two things in common; very few of them are programming major pieces by women composers, and almost none have a woman on the podium. Despite the abundance of wonderful compositions by women, the world of classical music has been, for centuries, a man’s world.

Louisa Melvin Delos Mars, composer

Louisa Melvin Delos Mars (c.1860 – after 1926) was born Louisa Melvin in Providence, Rhode Island around 1858. She was the oldest daughter of Charles and Elizabeth Melvin. During the 1880s she and her younger sister, Carrie Melvin Lucas, formed a duo, with Carrie playing violin and cornet with Louisa singing.

She was one of the first black women to graduate from the New England Conservatory of Music, and the first black woman to have an opera produced. The opera, “Leoni, the Gypsy Queen,” was performed in Providence, Rhode Island in 1889. She would also perform in her own operettas. She composed and copyrighted five full-length musical dramas between 1880 and 1896.

Mars went on to compose and star in four more full-length operettas which were staged in either Boston, Massachusetts or Providence, Rhode Island between 1880–1896. She was married to William Delos Mars, and the couple had two sons. Not much is known about Mars’ life after 1896, and none of her compositions survived.