Van was born July 6, 1933 in Byron Center, Michigan and attended elementary and high schools in both Michigan and California.
After first attending San Bernardino Valley College in California, Van received a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
A Special Secondary Credential in Music and a General Secondary Credential were then added from San Jose State College in California. In the following years Van took extension courses in music and education as well as graduate courses in conducting from Cal State Northridge.
Van's musical training also includes nine years of piano lessons, six years of pipe organ lessons, five years of trumpet lessons, and sixteen years as a band member. In the performance arena, Van played in recitals for nine years, played a senior organ recital in college, played in bands from third grade through college and was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division. He has been a church organist for over forty-eight years and a band director for over forty-five.
Van and Lorraine were married on August 19, 1955. They have two married sons and three grandchildren. Lorraine taught primary grades in the Goleta School District for twenty-five years.