Quinn Lohmann closes his eyes and tilts his head slightly. His fingers find their place between the frets of his guitar, and his voice rings out, soft and crystal clear.
“We all got a life to live. We all got a gift to give. …”
Lohmann stops mid-strum. “I need to tune,” he says, as he twists the keys on the head of his guitar.
Lohmann, who has autism, also has perfect pitch, and he knows when the sound is just right.
“Open up your heart and let it out,” he continues.
Lohmann’s mother, Kathy Finn, said he started playing tunes on the piano by ear when he was 3, so she started him on music therapy, and he quickly excelled at piano and, later, guitar. Finn decided to have Lohmann, who had some severe behavioral issues, study for a bar mitzvah, and with the help of Cantor Steven Puzarne, founder of Vision of Wholeness, Lohmann led the entire service and chanted the whole portion at his bar mitzvah at Kehillat Israel in Pacific Palisades.
In fact, Lohmann continues to chant Torah at Temple Akiba in Culver City, as well as at other congregations, and at Nes Gadol, the Jewish studies program at Vista Del Mar that he has been a part of for many years.
He’s also a song leader at Nes Gadol, and fills that role at Camp Ramah in the summers, as well.
For many summers Lohmann attended Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Camp Hess Kramer, where he thrilled in enjoying a typical summer with typical kids. He loves to play baseball, basketball—and at a lanky 6-foot-2, he’s pretty good on the court—ride his bike and swim. He went on a NFTY Reform youth group Israel trip without additional support.
Lohmann, who is 19, graduated Village Glen School last year, but stayed on for a yearlong transition program where he worked at the school cafe, and learned job and life skills.
Next year, he’ll be attending Pathway, a program at UCLA Extension where adults with special needs take classes at the university and learn to live independently.
Lohmann would like to continue with his music, perhaps studying to be a cantor or a song leader in a synagogue.
While Lohmann’s conversation and social skills are somewhat stilted—he mostly responds to questions with short answers—the song he chooses to sing tells the story for him.
It is “B’tzelem Elohim,” “In God’s Image,” by Dan Nichols, and Lohmann learned it at camp.
“We all got a peace to bring. We all got a song to sing.
Just open your heart and let it out. …
We all got a mountain to climb. We all got a truth to find.
Just open your heart and let it out. …”