by Lorie Lewis Ham
In Kings River Life Magazine we like to take the opportunity to profile local teachers now and then because they truly make a difference in all of our lives and seldom get any recognition. Randy Lepp is one of those teachers who has touched the lives of so many through the years, not only as a choir teacher at Reedley High School, but also a tennis coach and at times a worship leader at Redeemer’s Church.
“Randy Lepp truly cares about his students,” stated Kings Canyon Unified School District’s Theatre Arts Coordinator Mark Norwood, who has worked with Randy off and on for many years. “Randy Lepp truly cares about sharing his passion for music and has never wavered in his commitment to be the best teacher he can be.”
Randy was born in Canada but his family moved to Dinuba when he was two and then to Reedley when he was in the sixth grade. As part of a musical family with both of his parents involved with music at church, Randy stated that he loved music and singing even as a little child. Once he got to high school that love became a direction in his life. “In high school I really enjoyed choir and decided then that that’s what I wanted to do.”
While attending college Randy worked in the local fruit industry, then got his first position teaching choir at Orosi High School 19 years ago. He remained at Orosi, where he also became a tennis coach, until 1993 when he heard about the position opening up at Reedley High School. “I had always wanted to teach in Reedley where I live. Fortunately for me, John Rogalsky the Superintendent at the time gave me the job.”
“I am extremely prejudiced towards Randy. He is truly one of a kind,” shared KCUSD Deputy Superintendent Ron Hudson. “I have never met someone who is so interested and so talented in so many areas. He is a “throw-back” Teacher. He can teach, he can coach, he can raise money, he can do anything. Most of all he can teach and motivate kids, regardless of the subject!”
At first, Randy didn’t intend for the tennis coaching to follow him to RHS as well, but after awhile he was asked by the girls coach to help. When she retired, Randy took over the position in 1996 and has coached them ever since.
While coaching tennis has been a part of Randy’s life since he was 19 when he helped coach at Immanuel, his primary job and passion has been in teaching the various choirs at RHS and at times other schools within KCUSD. “I have always enjoyed high school students and music so that combination makes for a very fulfilling job.”
A typical day for Randy is a busy one starting at the school at 7 a.m. to prepare for the day’s classes. He then has four periods of choir at RHS and then heads out to Orange Cove High School for choir there. He then returns to RHS and during girl’s tennis season in the fall he heads right out to the tennis courts for practice until about 6 p.m. or later if there’s a match. “During the rest of the year there always are things to do after classes are over like extra rehearsals, music research, or paper work.”
According to Randy, the hardest parts of his job are all those things beyond teaching itself such as finding good music that will motivate the students, all of the fundraising they do and the time commitment it all takes. “It can take its toll on personal and family time.”
There are also the concerts every year, choir trips, and competitions, which can be a lot of work, but also a lot of fun and some great memories. “When the madrigals went to the New York Heritage Festival in 2007 we received a Gold Medal and took first Place in are Division that was special,” said Randy. “We also went to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway and toured the city.”
Randy has a lot of funny memories from concerts through the years as well, including people tripping, riser and wardrobe malfunctions, and typos in the programs. During his very first KCUSD choir concert, they performed the song “Beauty and the Beast” and the program had a typo adding an r to beast. “A parent walked up to me right before the concert to ask me if that was the correct title.”
“It sounds cliché, but Mr. Lepp is honestly one of the coolest teachers I have had,” said Billiann Robertson, RHS Senior and Madrigal member. “I’ve had some of the best times in high school being a part of the Madrigals and I owe it all to Mr. Lepp.”
Michael Angel was a student of Randy’s from 1999-2003 and now considers him a friend. Since choir, Michael has gone on to form his own vocal group, star in many Reedley River City Theatre Company productions, and to study music at Fresno State. “He gets students excited about choir and from their excitement he is able to get the very best out of them.”
James Tasy went from choir student to being Randy’s accompanist for just over a year now, so has not only been student, but also coworker. “He encourages all of his students and makes choir fun, which is why so many people are and have been involved in the RHS choral program.”
Randy’s rare free time is spent with family, playing guitar, tennis and riding motorcycles. He and his wife Debbie have three grown children, whom he had the pleasure of having in his choirs as well. As to how much longer he will be teaching choir, “I am shooting for five more years. Will see if I want to continue after that.”
Look for more teacher profiles in KRL’s Everything Education section.