Linda Mintener

Linda Mintener, a retired Wisconsin Department of Revenue lawyer and longtime flute player, coordinates the annual Madison concert that helps support the educations of orphaned children in rural China. 

Linda Mintener has been practicing law and playing the flute for many years — and soon will be honored for finding a way to combine those talents.

Mintener will be presented with the National Flute Association’s 2017 Distinguished Service Award at its 45th annual convention this month for her 14 years of doing pro bono work for the group. Her husband, Bob Jones, and many of her seven grandchildren and four children and stepchildren will be there to cheer her on.

“It’s the kind of award that usually is given to high-level professional flute players,” Mintener said of the honor given by the world’s largest flute organization, with more than 4,000 members from 50 countries. The gala event will include a concert featuring masters of the flute, the guest of honor herself among them. Mintener is helping to coordinate it.

Which is another of Mintener’s talents. For the past 11 years, she has put together the annual Chinese Orphans Project concert in Madison, featuring top-flight flute players and other musicians at First Baptist Church to raise money so impoverished children can attend school. The next concert is April 22.

An Iowa native, Mintener earned bachelor’s degrees at Indiana University in music and liberal arts, then spent two years in Guinea, West Africa, in the Peace Corps. After moving to Madison, she attended UW Law School while raising two children and teaching flute.

For 28 years, Mintener worked as litigator of large claim sales tax cases for the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. She’s a member of the Madison Flute Choir and its elite Chamber Ensemble.

Mintener, who is in her 70s, talked about her passions at her Near West Side home, in the same room where she still teaches flute. On the walls and shelves are samples of folk art that she’s gathered in her travels around the world.

What kind of volunteer help do you give the National Flute Association?

As the association has grown, things have become more complicated. And more things have come up – like an endowment fund, and you have to have an endowment policy. Things that stretched my legal experience, because I did tax and litigation.

I (interpret and) update the bylaws, (deal with) job descriptions. A lot of contracts. Copyright violations. With so many members now, you’re going to have some strange situations that’ll have to be dealt with. … It’s a lot of work — sometimes six hours a day for two weeks in a row. And then it will quiet down for awhile.

Is it interesting for you?

It is. First of all, I loved my job at Department of Revenue. I really loved it. Other lawyers and even judges say, “Tax — I don’t even do my own taxes! You’ll have to explain this to me.” But I really, really enjoyed that job. I like the law, I like interpreting the law. I’m proud that I can do it, it’s something they really need somebody for.

You got involved in the Chinese Orphans Project through your good friend, Judy Sutterlin, who is a missionary in China. What is the project?

These children live in Henan Province, an interior agricultural province, all in small villages, very poor. In the 1990s, some blood collectors came into that area and offered money for donating blood. So the men, particularly, all lined up. And it was all infected with HIV. They did the procedures in such a way that everybody who gave blood got HIV. Ten thousand adults died, and left 2,000 orphans.

(The project — see — was founded to) send these children to school. It gives them (and children orphaned through other circumstances) enough money to have a summer outfit and a winter outfit. It snows, so they need winter clothes – and school books, school supplies such as pencil and paper, school fees and exam fees, and protein for their diet.

(The first year our) church sent some money, and I was so excited to support two kids for two years. Well, we didn’t project that in two years the money would run out. So I said to my good friends, what if we put on a concert to raise money? They said they would all help. That was in we sponsor 94 children.It wasn’t even our intention. We never projected that far. Some people from the church asked, ‘Why can’t I just pay the money for an individual orphan?’ We now have 70 kids supported by individual people. One family supports four kids, one of whom is now in college.

We have nine who are in college, we have six who have graduated from college and got professional jobs. We have hundreds who finished as far as they could go in school, which for most is 9th grade, and many more who finished high school. ... So it’s been very rewarding.

— Interview by Gayle Worland