Maxine Ardis Reed Duncan

1939 -

Maxine Duncan, pianist and organist, taught in five Seventh-day Adventist schools and and was active as a church musician. She also worked as a secretary and librarian and assisted her husband, Don, as an accompanist throughout his career.

Born in McAllen, Texas, Maxine grew up in nearby San Juan. Her mother, an accomplished and sought-after singer, had taught herself piano and how to read music. Her father, a physician, had played saxophone in his earlier years and was in the Pacific Union College band while a student. He had met her mother while at PUC. They moved to Texas in 1933, after he completed medical school at the College of Medical Evangelists, now Loma Linda University School of Medicine.

Maxine started piano lessons at about age four, studying with a Mrs. Porter, a member of the Weslaco Adventist church. While her father was serving overseas during World War II, he fell in love with the sound of the accordion and sent three accordions back home. Maxine later talked about that and her subsequent experience with the instrument:

He sent three different sizes, a little tiny one, a middle-sized one and a large one. My sister wasn't at all interested, but mother and I found an accordion teacher and we took lessons. I started when I was about eight and we played in an accordion band. It sounds hokey, but it was really fun. My special birthday present when I was thirteen was an accordion that I still have. I played it often when I attended Union College. The college pastor, Elder Deming, loved it and asked me to play quite often for church.

Eva Ellen Miller, Maxine's accordion teacher, who had a master's degree in piano, also taught her piano during her teenage years. She encouraged her to pursue a music major and consider music therapy as a career. Maxine decided against the latter, unable to reconcile the fact that music therapy involved dancing and the Adventist culture at that time believed dancing was wrong.

She continued her piano study with June McManaman and Anne Lambert (now Bushnell), started organ lessons with Wilbur Schram, and studied voice with Harold Lickey at Southwestern Junior College, now Southwestern Adventist University. While at SWJC, she met Don Duncan. When she left to complete her music degree at Union College in 1957 after two years at SWJC, he transferred with her.

At UC, she studied piano and organ with Eleanor Attarian and theory with Betty Christensen. When she completed her B.S. in music education degree in 1959, Maxine and Don married. They then taught music for two years in an Adventist junior academy in Grand Junction, Colorado, and then for four years at Oak Park Academy in Iowa, before they decided to return to UC so that he could complete his degree.

While Don completed his degree in music education in 1967 and then enrolled at the University of Nebraska to work on a master's degree, she also worked on a graduate degree in music. She studied organ with Myron Roberts and completed an M.Mus. at UN in 1968. He completed an M.Mus. with oboe as his performance area a year later.

During their stay in Lincoln they made a commitment to the Inter-America Union to teach there after completing graduate study and were given a stipend for living expenses. They supplemented that income by Maxine's teaching lessons at UC and performing as a substitute organist in local churches and Don's working part-time at Christian Record Braille Foundation, where he assisted in setting up and working in their recording studio.

In 1969 they traveled to Antillean College, now Antillean Adventist University, in Puerto Rico, where they worked for a year. While there, they had a child who required medical care available only in the U.S. Don accepted a position at La Sierra College, now University, in 1970 to direct the band, a position he held for the next four years.

Although successful in his work at LSC, he decided to take a leave from teaching, and the Duncans returned to Texas for a year, where she taught piano at Valley Grande Academy, a school her parents had started years earlier, and he painted houses. A year later, in 1975, they moved to Ohio, where Don assisted in setting up a television studio for Kettering Medical Center.

While he worked in the studio, she gave piano lessons in their home at first and then at nearby Spring Valley Academy. She also played the organ for a Methodist church in Dayton, an experience she particularly enjoyed.

In 1982 they moved to Hialeah, Florida, where he worked in a studio funded by the Inter-American Division for five years and she worked in a real estate appraiser's office. When Don returned to teaching in 1987, accepting a position at Mt. Ellis Academy in Montana, she worked as secretary to the president of the Montana Conference and in the academy business office. She also played organ on occasion for academy church services. Two years later, they left when MEA decided that because Don had experienced a heart attack during his second year, they wanted to make a change.

They were hired by Walker Memorial Hospital, an Adventist hospital in Avon Park, Florida, later relocated and renamed, where he did public relations work and she was secretary to the finance officer. This was followed by an invitation for them to relocate to Bangkok, Thailand, where Don was administrator of the Adventist International School and she was secretary to the Mission President. They were there for four years, until Don had another heart attack.

In 1994 they accepted positions at Valley Grande Academy, where he served as vice-principal, taught some classes, and directed the band and handbell choir, and she worked part-time in the business office and played organ for the local Methodist church. The school knew that their choir director was going to retire at the end of the year and wanted him to do the music program when she left, which he did for a year.

At the end of that year, they moved to Denver, where Don directed the band and choir for two years at Mile High Academy. While there, she served as secretary to the principal at a school for disabled children located in the outskirts of Denver.

In 1998 they moved to Barstow, California, where he was initially hired to do substitute teaching in that community's public school district and she worked as a part-time library assistant at Barstow Middle School. Don gained full-time employment as a music teacher and then was offered and accepted the band position as the first band director at a new middle school in Adelanto, where his grandson was in his band, an experience both enjoyed. Just before Thanksgiving, he conducted a concert with the band that was enthusiastically received. Tragically, he died unexpectedly just before Christmas.

Maxine was interviewed after that for a full-time position at the Kennedy Middle School library. She was hired as librarian and worked there until her retirement in 2006. She now resides in Barstow.


Source: Interview, Maxine Duncan, July 2008.