Hustling away from his computer, which contains myriad files of recordings he has been listening through, Tom Lehmkuhl smiles widely and gives his hand for a handshake. The vibration of his voice tells immediately that he is a brilliant singer, along with wide movements of his mouth that produce clear diction like that of a leading role in a famous opera. He sits down comfortably on his chair, which he has been sitting in for less than a week, with eager eyes ready to talk about his aspirations and goals.
Tom Lehmkuhl, the new choral director of Carmel High School and Carmel Middle School, sees much hope in teaching in America. Having taught for nine years in American Embassy School in New Delhi and American School of Bombay, he knows what it means to enrich the lives of students living in a country where singing is not a big part of the culture. With the perception that teaching never comes easy without such passion that he shared with students there, Lehmkuhl is determined to apply the same logic into teaching here in the U.S.
“In Carmel High, the music program is strongly embedded in the program. Just look at the new performing arts center!” Lehmkuhl says exuberantly. “The music boosters really take initiative here. They already started contacting me about all the plans for the year. Also, the piano sitting on the stage of the Performing Arts Theater proves how dedicated school is to music.”
Lehmkuhl is excited about all the opportunities that are present here at Carmel High, especially when it was not long ago when many schools had to cut down arts programs due to shortages in budgets.
However, Lehmkuhl is most thrilled about the fact that the singers at Carmel High are so dedicated to the point where they take private voice lessons, join community or church choirs, and try out for various honor choir groups.
“We are trying to create art here, and such process sure takes high level of energy and passion!” says Lehmkuhl, expressing his appreciation for the level of dedication that his singers ought to bring him throughout his career here at Carmel High.
The genuine motivation to become better vocalists is all Lehmkuhl asks of his singers.
“Since I had not much experience with kids, I wanted to try something new and direct my career into teaching music,” Lehmkuhl says when asked about his motivation of becoming a teacher.
From the Top, a radio program that recruits talented young musicians to perform live, was what got Lehmkuhl excited about finding the potential inside young spirits. As the talent manager and stage crew of the program, Lehmkuhl was able to send out the applications and get blown away by the talents that those young kids had while doing the stage lights.
“Mr. Lehmkuhl truly understands the voice and knows how to mold it to excellence,” says Allison Vanderley, who is part of the Chamber Singers.
Lehmkuhl’s high school choral director, Jim Yaol, was the person who led Lehmkuhl into the world of music. Lehmkuhl got his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in vocal music, and what he learned from Yaol never faded away from Lehmkuhl’s heart.
“Lehmkuhl is a highly qualified music teacher,” says Amanda Freedman, the co-president of the CUSD Music Boosters. “When I visited his classes the other day, the singers were working on the scales, and they were just phenomenal!”
Lehmkuhl says his goal is to make students become aware of the beauty and joy of arts. He plans to accomplish such a goal by not necessarily trying to make the classes fun and exciting, but rather by passionately doing his job as a choral teacher.
“I really enjoy Mr. Lehmkuhl’s teaching style and his ability to focus on the vocal techniques, as well as the challenge he presents to us in every aspect of singing,” says Mari Flectcher, another member of the Chamber Singers. She does not doubt that both choirs will perform phenomenally at the Heritage Music Festival competition coming up next April.
“Me happy!” Lehmkuhl says in what he calls “Caveman Hindi.”
There are only positives in how Lehmkuhl feels about teaching here at Carmel High. Under his guidance, each singer is sure to become the angel of music who would brighten the school into a heavenly place.