A Gift of Love

Linda Love’s donation to IPO’s KeyNote and Sulamot carries a healthy share of heritage.

Linda Love‘s recent donation to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s youth music programs continues her family’s tradition of passing the passion for music from generation to generation.

Donated in the memory of her parents, Sylvia and Bernard Shlutz, Linda’s transformative gift will be divided between the KeyNote program and Sulamot project, with a portion of the KeyNote funds earmarked to provide piano lessons for children.

“I am very happy, and I know that my parents would be, too, to help enrich the lives of children,” Love wrote in an accompanying letter. “Giving children the opportunity to express themselves through music and inspiring them by listening to great music is truly a gift to me and the devotion of my parents.”

For Love, who “devoted my life to music, both performing and teaching classical piano,” the piano keyboard is the bridge that connects back through her family’s past and forward through students taught by her mother, herself, and now the Israel Philharmonic.

Sylvia Shlutz playing the cimbalom.

Both Sylvia Amsterdam and Bernard Shlutz were born in Chicago to first-generation Americans from Austria-Hungary and Lithuania, respectively. Jewish tradition and music were at the center of both families. Sylvia’s father, Harry Amsterdam, helped establish Chicago’s musicians’ union and operated a music store. Her father and other family members formed Amsterdam’s Hungarian Orchestra, which performed at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. Comedian and cellist Morey Amsterdam was a second cousin.

“My mother was a great inspiration – absolutely wonderful in how she approached people and teaching,” Love said. She inspired both her children to become professional musicians. Love’s younger brother became a cellist, who was a sought-after studio musician as well as a member of the Minneapolis Symphony.

From the age of 4 to 11, Love studied piano with her mother, then studied with several other excellent teachers before attending USC on music scholarship and then earning her music degree from UCLA in 1968. Her 50-year career as a concert pianist and professional piano teacher includes numerous local concerts as well as performances in Switzerland, Hawaii, Mexico, and Guam, and 13 years teaching at Loyola Marymount University. A highlight was a 1991 concert performing the Schumann Concerto with L.A.’s American Youth Symphony under conductor Mehli Mehta, Maestro Zubin Mehta’s father.

Linda’s father, Bernard Shlutz, at the piano.

Bernard Shlutz was equally inspiring, in another way. Although he took few piano lessons, and his business was running a liquor store in Southwest Los Angeles, he was a natural musician who served as a choir director in both Chicago and Los Angeles. He worked at the Wilshire Blvd. Temple under the influential Rabbi Edgar Magnin.

“He had a tenor voice and knew operas backwards and forwards,” Love said. “He could have been a cantor if he wanted.”

He was also an amateur composer whom she remembers sitting at the piano and “making up these beautiful piano pieces.” He wrote down only the melodies and after he died in 1983 at the age of 79, Love added left-hand accompaniments “according to what I heard him do and some of my own ideas. I put in all the editing marks, pedal marks, and fingering, then wrote a forward and put it into a book, which I entitled Songs Of My People.”

She made copies to give to friends and began performing the music, as an encore or program piece in her concerts, most recently at the Jewish Synagogue in Lancaster, near the small rural town in the Antelope Valley, north of Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband.

“People could hear they were written from the heart and loved them,” she recalled. “The melodies are very vocal and dancelike, with an authentic Eastern European Jewish quality that echoes his parents homeland of Lithuania.”

To inspire the children in KeyNote and Sulamot, Love is also donating 40 copies of the book of her father’s compositions.

“The music can readily be played and enjoyed by intermediate level piano students,” she said.

As she wrote to conclude the letter accompanying her gift, “Giving children the opportunity to express themselves through music, and inspiring them by listening to great music, is so important. In music you can hear so much beauty. All human feelings have been put into music in a way that we don’t have to interpret them, or argue about them. They’re just there.”

Amsterdam’s Hungarian Orchestra in 1893, with Harry Amsterdam, Linda’s grandfather, seated far left.