Milton Kaye; Pianist, TV Musical Director

Associated Press
Saturday, August 19, 2006

Milton Kaye, 97, a pianist and arranger who introduced Dmitri Shostakovich's first concerto to a U.S. audience, toured war zones with violinist Jascha Heifetz and wrote theme music for the television series "Concentration," died Monday at a hospital in New York. He had pneumonia.

Mr. Kaye served as musical director for shows on all three major television networks.

His broadcasting credits included Arturo Toscanini's "NBC Symphony of the Air"; "The Bell Telephone Hour"; and the 1950s children's program "Rootie Kazootie," for which he played the organ.

He joined the popular 1960s game show "Concentration," for which he helped write theme music, in 1961.

He also had an active concert career. Reviewing his first solo concert, in 1945, the New York Times wrote, "His conceptions were musical, in line with the best tradition and yet individual and independent."

He introduced Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 1 to the United States in the 1930s.

In 1944, Mr. Kaye accompanied Heifetz on an eight-week USO tour of war zones in Italy.

The Times reported that they performed in theaters, opera houses, airplane hangars, on battleships and right up at the front lines, with Kaye playing a small, olive-drab piano from an open truck.

He later declined to join Heifetz on a more permanent basis in California, but he did make some recordings with the violinist after the war.

Four years ago, he and his wife appeared in a well-known commercial for De Beers diamonds. In it, a young couple watch as an elderly couple strolls in a park, holding hands.

Mr. Kaye, born Milton Jay Katz in Brooklyn, N.Y., studied at City College and the Institute of Musical Art, forerunner of the Juilliard School, and received a doctorate at Columbia University.

Survivors include his wife of 60 years, actress Shannon Bolin, who appeared as Meg in the original Broadway production of "Damn Yankees" and reprised her role in the film.

A daughter died a decade ago.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company