The Voice

Washington Junior High in Brainerd
(photo courtesy of Renae Czeczok)

September has arrived and has brought with it the sights and sounds of children returning to school for another year. We all have memories of our school days when life was so much more carefree than it becomes once we reach adulthood. We remember the classmates and friends we had growing up and sometimes wonder where they are now and what they are doing. We thought the back-to-school month of September would be a perfect time to surprise Linda by connecting with a few former classmates from her junior high school and high school days in Brainerd, Minnesota to discover some memories they have of “the good old days” with her.

Renae Czeczok, who still lives in the small town of Brainerd, Minnesota to this very day, attended junior high school with Linda, and she has fond memories of their time together as young girls and beyond. In her interview, Renae gives some insight into the Linda she knew so well way back then.

VOICE: When did you first meet Linda?

RENAE: In seventh grade at Washington Junior High in Brainerd, Minnesota.

VOICE: Do you remember your first impression of her?

RENAE: She was a lot taller than I was!

VOICE: Did you share any classes with Linda in junior high school?

RENAE: Yes, Science class with Mr. Williams and Choir.

VOICE: Do you remember any fun things you and Linda did together as junior high girls?

RENAE: We were workhouse boys in OLIVER TWIST.

VOICE: Linda has a great sense of humor. Do you have any funny memories of Linda in junior high school?

RENAE: Linda demonstrated for my parents how I walked in heels and then demonstrated the correct way to walk in heels. This was at my house before "Mass Mess," an all-school choir concert for the Brainerd Schools. I believe that was seventh grade. Science Class was a hoot and a half!

VOICE: What did you think the first time you heard Linda sing?

RENAE: I remember wanting her autograph because I knew she was going to be a star!

VOICE: Did you know back in junior high that Linda would take the music world by storm?

RENAE: No doubt! My father always wanted me to be like her… I took the wrong road.

VOICE: Did Linda show any of her talent as an artist in junior high school?

RENAE: Yes, she did. Linda was a great drawer… horses were the best. In Science we had to draw cells, telescopes... and label them.

VOICE: When was the first time you heard Linda perform by herself on stage?

RENAE: It was when she won Miss Brainerd! 

VOICE: Were you able to attend any of Linda’s early shows in her home state of Minnesota?

RENAE: Yes. I saw her at a supper club in Duluth, and when she ran to the bathroom as she was taking a break for a quick pee... I talked her into singing the song she sang when she won the Miss Brainerd Pageant. Soon after, I heard her say into the microphone, “Renae, where are you? This is for you!” I was so happy!

VOICE: Do you own any of Linda’s recordings? If so, do you have a favorite CD or a favorite song?
RENAE: YES! I love them all!

VOICE: What would you like to say to Linda if you had the opportunity to sit down and have a chat with her?

RENAE: I wish we could have seventh grade all over again… the innocence of our adolescence and that splendid feeling of pure FUN!

Linda's High School principal, Mr. Hunt

Jim Hunt was the principal of Brainerd Senior High School from 1972 until retiring in 1999. Linda was so lucky to have been a student during his time as principal.

Jim Hunt
“As a high school principal, one of my main goals was to create and support programs for students to better themselves. Supporting athletic programs and the Arts was an area of my job that I took very seriously and enjoyed very much.

As Linda’s high school principal, I remember her as a very quiet, shy student. She was involved in choir, art club, musicals, and track. I knew of Linda because her dad worked in the school restaurant and was a friend, but I also began to know her because although she was a quiet person, she began to discover her talents and explore them during her high school career. I feel that Linda’s talents were innate, but were supported and guided by some of her teachers. As her teachers began to realize Linda’s talents, they encouraged her and challenged her. Specifically, Dr. Tom Rossin (high school choir teacher) encouraged her in choir giving her solos and helping her gain confidence.  

When Linda began performing around the Brainerd Lakes Area and ultimately getting to Star Search, it was such a thrill to see this modest, humble person realizing her dreams. I may not have been directly involved in developing those talents, but I’ve been lucky to have been a spectator and fan from early on. In 1999, Linda was inducted to the Brainerd High School Hall of Fame. To me, Linda represents the best of what education can do for a person. Because she had teachers who noticed her talents and because Linda was willing to learn from her teachers, she was able to develop her talents even more. It gives me such great pleasure to see how she continues to be that same humble, quiet person who is realizing her dreams. I wish her continued success and happiness and look forward to many more concerts!”

Kim Hummel (Horn)
“Linda and I were in an English class together. We were both quiet and didn't speak to each other too often. What I remember most is Linda's smile and that she was always very nice to me.”

Dr. David Mennicke

Dr. David Mennicke had the wonderful experience of being in choir with Linda during their high school days. He has pursued a career in music and is presently Music Department Chair at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Like Linda, David has had a lifelong passion for music, Linda as an entertainer and he as an educator. In his interview, we get a glimpse into Linda the high school girl who was preparing herself for a future filled with amazing music.

VOICE: When did you first meet Linda?   

DAVID: Sometime our sophomore year; I was singing in A Cappella Choir and she was a rising star in the Women’s Glee Club (There weren’t any women in A Cappella that year.) I remember that she was taking lessons from Tom Rossin and really opening up her voice.

Linda Eder as a member of the Brainerd Senior High School Girl's Glee Club 1976-77

VOICE: Do you remember your first impression of her? 

DAVID: Thoughtful, talented—she shared some drawings she’d done, and I knew that she loved to sing. She was quiet—a bit shy, but we began to have a few short conversations about music at the end of that year. 

VOICE: What classes did you share with her? 

DAVID: I think we just had A Cappella Choir together, which was a big experience.  We were both passionate about it—me in a more boisterous way, she in a more quiet, but clearly dedicated way. 

VOICE: What was your reaction the first time you heard Linda sing? 

DAVID: Struck by the ease of her high notes; she sang solo sometimes on Rossin’s arrangement of “Goin’ Home”—a very high part, and hers was effortless. We also laughed a bit about diction that high; in a self-deprecating way, she said it is basically “Mwah, mwah mwah, mwah, mwhah mwah!”

VOICE: What are some of your memories of being in choir with Linda? 

DAVID: Her emotion—generally hidden in day to day relationships—came through with great depth in her singing. She was focused, professional, and at ease when she sang, but the feelings, expression, passion came through in her voice. I also remember her trying to show Tom Rossin how to draw, encouraging him to “draw what you see, not what you think it should be.” I also remember her referring to her father, who was the chef at the Brainerd Vo-tech and owner of the Blue Goose Inn, as an artist. And I deeply appreciated her note to me in my yearbook, saying that most people were afraid to show passion and deeply care about something beyond themselves, and that I wasn’t one of those.

VOICE: What are some memories of Linda playing Mother Abbess in THE SOUND OF MUSIC?  

DAVID: This was a lot of fun. We didn’t have any scenes together (I was Max), but it was extraordinary to hear her do “Climb Every Mountain.” She was a great cast member and enjoyed the other students. (My younger sister, Sue, was one of the nuns who shared scenes with her.) I remember having a “soiree” at my house sometime soon after high school and inviting her, and others, to share their music with each other—a delightful time.

VOICE: Did Linda show her artistic talent in high school? 

DAVID: Yes—she did the album cover for our junior and senior year A Cappella Choir records, and usually had a sketch book with her.

VOICE: Linda has a great sense of humor and she can be very funny. Can you share any stories that show her sense of humor during her high school days? 

DAVID: Nothing specific, but I do remember by our senior year she wasn’t shy about sharing some sarcastic zingers in a group setting (all in fun)!

VOICE: Did you always know Linda had the talent to "make it big?" 

DAVID: I knew she had a remarkable talent—but it’s kind of impossible to predict if one will make it to that level. I’m delighted she did!

VOICE: Is there anything else you would like to say about Linda from her high school days? 

DAVID: Not only was she talented, witty, and dedicated—she was quite beautiful in appearance, even though she didn’t seem to take extraordinary measures to make herself up—or maybe she was attractive because she didn’t do that but kept more natural—something that fit her personality. I remember when she was in the Miss Brainerd Pageant, many of my male peers suddenly noticed that she was quite lovely.

VOICE: Have you seen Linda in concert or on stage in JEKYLL & HYDE?

DAVID: Unfortunately, no.

VOICE: Have you had the opportunity to catch up with Linda since graduation?

DAVID: Unfortunately, no.

VOICE: What would you say to Linda if you had the opportunity to sit down and have a chat with her today? 

DAVID: I’m delighted that you have done so well, and pleased to have “known you when.” I’d be happy to know what things she may remember and/or appreciate from those days. I’d also like to know how her spirit is doing. She evidenced great depth of emotion and compassion back then, and I hope that the successes (and the sorrows) of life on the stage have not shifted that. My sense from following her career is that she has remained rooted to what is true. Having a conversation with her about “what is truth” would be delightful!


Becky McKee (Odle)

Becky McKee (Odle) also was in high school choir with Linda. Fortunately for Linda’s fans, she saved some of the programs from their concerts so we can see the covers designed by Linda (for more — scroll to the bottom of this page!). Linda was the winner of the contests for the opportunity to have her designs used for the programs.

VOICE: When did you first meet Linda?

BECKY: I don't remember, but we were in Choir together from 9th-12th grade. 

VOICE: Do you remember your first impression of her?

BECKY: She had a pretty singing voice!

VOICE: What was your reaction the first time you heard Linda sing?

BECKY: Heavenly!

VOICE: What are some of your memories of being in choir with Linda?

BECKY: She got most of the solos. She was the “pet” of the choir director – Ha!

VOICE: Did Linda show her artistic talent in high school?

BECKY: Very much so!

VOICE: Did you always know Linda had the talent to “make it big?”

BECKY: Absolutely!

VOICE: Have you seen Linda in concert or on stage in JEKYLL & HYDE?

BECKY: No. I wish she would come out to Idaho.

VOICE: Have you ever had the opportunity to catch up with Linda after you graduated?

BECKY: Unfortunately, no.

VOICE: Do you own any of Linda’s recordings?

BECKY: I have one of her CDs.

VOICE: What would you say to Linda if you had the opportunity to sit down and have a chat with her today?

BECKY: What was it like to make it big and become a star after coming from little old Brainerd? Do you still pinch yourself? Do you have children? Do you ever get back to Brainerd? Have you heard from TR? I want to see you on stage... come to Boise sometime. You are beautiful and sing like an angel!

Jean Meier

Jean Meier writes…

“Linda's sister and my sister were best friends in school. Margaret was also my sister's maid of honor. I do recall one time us girls went shopping at the local JC Penny's. Linda bought a top that she liked. Later it was discovered it was a maternity top!”


Some of the Brainerd Senior High School Acappella Choir program covers designed by Linda Eder

And now... rare recordings of some of Linda's solo performances while a memeber of the Brainerd Senior High School Acappella Choir!



EDER-tor's Note:

To Linda: We hope you enjoyed this surprise!!!

To everyone who made this feature possible: A huge thank you to Becky McKee (Odle) for giving Linda's fans the gift of hearing the beauty of her voice from high school choir days before she took the music world by storm. Hearing Linda perform her solos on these songs is truly a treasure.

We are so grateful to all those who helped us pull off this surprise "gift" for Linda and for her fans... Jim Hunt, Heather Hunt (Goss), Renae Czeczok, Kim Hummel (Horn), David Mennicke, Becky McKee (Odle), Jean Meier. Thank you for your enthusiasm and for taking the time to share your memories of Linda from the school days you shared with her in Brainerd.


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(c)2013 Linda Eder