Linda Kay McManaman van Niekerk-Franklin
Linda van Niekerk-Franklin, an organist, pianist, violinist, and harpist, is enjoying a career as a performer, teacher, and church musician. She has taught music at all levels and maintained a private studio for over forty years.
Linda was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, the oldest of four children of Robert Lee and June Johnstone McManaman. While both parents were music teachers who provided their children opportunity for music study, only Linda would pursue music as a career.
She started piano lessons with her mother at age six while her parents were teaching at Southwestern Junior College, now Southwestern Adventist University, and then continued with Vivian Schram until her parents accepted music positions at Helderberg College in South Africa in 1957. While at HC, she started lessons on organ at age thirteen with her mother.
Linda had started taking violin lessons just prior to their move to HC and continued study on both piano and violin at nearby Stollenbosch Music Conservatory. She was particularly inspired by her study with Roslyn Beck and Artemisio Paganini, concertmaster and later conductor of the Cape Town Orchestra.
She completed high school at HC and although earlier she had thought she wanted to be a nurse, she decided to pursue music as a career. The McManamans returned to the U.S. in January 1965 so that her father could pursue an M.A. in music at Andrews University and Linda could continue her education in the U.S. She enrolled as an organ major at AU and then transferred to Pacific Union College when her family accepted positions at Rio Lindo Academy at Healdsburg, California, in 1966.
While at PUC she played as a first violinist in ensembles and was an accompanist in recitals and for Carolyn Rhodes Bisel’s voice lessons. She completed a B.Mus. in organ performance under Del Case and married André van Niekerk in the new PUC church the afternoon following her graduation in 1969.
The van Niekerks enrolled at Andrews University that summer, where she completed an M.Mus. in organ performance in 1970 under C. Warren Becker, who inspired her with his teaching, performance, and personal example. She then taught classroom music in the nearby Dowagiac, Michigan, public school system for three years, gave lessons to beginning organ students at AU, and played for services at AU’s Pioneer Memorial Church.
Linda started work on a doctorate in music theory at Michigan State University in 1973 and had finished classwork for the degree by the time André completed his Ph.D. in 1975. They then moved to Grand Rapids, where she maintained a piano studio with about fifty students, taught theory classes in the community college, and continued to assist as associate in organ instruction at AU, as she had since graduation.
While at MSU, she began to study harp and when they moved to Grand Rapids continued lessons on the instrument with a teacher who had earlier been principal harpist with the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra. She has been active as a harp soloist since that time, playing for weddings, social occasions, and church services, and in ad hoc orchestras.
In 1982 the van Niekerks moved to Orlando, Florida, where she worked in public relations as Special Events Coordinator at the Florida Hospital, part of the Adventist Health System. She also became active as a church musician, serving as choirmaster and organist at an Episcopal church in Sanford for several years.
Since 1990 she has been organist at First United Methodist Church in Orlando. During her time there the organ, an Aeolian-Skinner, and a Steinway grand piano were renovated in 2010 and 2011, respectively, and rededicated with concerts by her. She has served as church organist in Adventist churches wherever she has lived and has been organist at the Kress Memorial Seventh-day Adventist Church in nearby Winter Park for several years.
Upon her arrival in Florida she started a musical collaboration with Peter D. Mathews, who by coincidence had just moved to Orlando. One of her tasks as she arrived was to organize a hospital-sponsored Thanksgiving Service as an outreach to the community. Out of their work together on this project grew the founding of the Florida Hospital Chorus in 1984, he conducting and she serving as accompanist. The chorus, which continued until 1997, developed a significant choral reputation and following in Central Florida, where it performed a number of concerts each season and was especially known for its Thanksgiving Services.
The van Niekerks divorced in 1990, and Linda married Dan Franklin in 1996. They reside in Altamonte Springs, near Forest Lake Academy, where she assists as organist at graduations and on occasion in special programs. She retains van Niekerk as her professional name.
Source: Interview with Linda van Niekerk-Franklin, 2013; Lake Union Herald, 23 November 1976, 10; Adventist Review, 17 April 1997, 21; Lawrence Kidder, “The Gift of Sacred Music,” Sunbelt Magazine, Autumn 1989, 6,7 (insert in the Southern Tidings, November 1989); Online sources.