Song memorializing slain Millard South assistant principal to go national

Vicki Kaspar


Vicki Kaspar's legacy is about to go national.

An Indianapolis publishing company has agreed to publish the song the Millard South High School choir commissioned to memorialize their slain assistant principal.

Colla Voce Music, which specializes in choir music, obtained rights to the song from composer and former Omahan Z. Randall Stroope.

The company plans to begin distribution next month, giving choirs around the country and the world access to the composition and insight into the Omaha tragedy.

Millard South choir members and their director Jason Stevens commissioned the piece, “You Are the Fearless Rose,” as a lasting tribute to Kaspar, the assistant principal shot and killed two years ago by a student she had suspended.

The choir sang the song publicly for the first time May 10, 2011, a tearful, gutty performance attended by Kaspar's husband, son and other relatives.


'You Are the Fearless Rose'

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"You Are the Fearless Rose" lyrics

By Jalaluddin Rumi and Z. Randall Stroope

You are the fearless rose

that grows amidst the freezing wind.

You are the rain on desert sand,

you are the bird from cage set free,

rising from the world of the soul,

you are, you are.

You are now the Sun

no need for a crown.

And you have vanish'd from this world

to a garden fair to meet the Rose.

You are the flowing grass

mid endless summer fields.

Elysium. Empyrean.

Divine fire, pure light you are.

And now the words are over,

the pain they bring is gone.

Rest a while, slumber still,

the journeys begun to the land of the Truth.

Rest in the arms of the Beloved.

Tread softly, speak gently.

And now the words are over,

The pain they bring is gone.

Rest awhile, slumber still.

You are the fearless rose

In endless summer fields.

Go, now, rose.

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Stroope, director of choral and vocal studies at Oklahoma State University, said he just finished proofing the final draft of the music last weekend. The work is set to be released on Feb. 1.

He said the song has has been performed a few times, prior to publication, most notably at Western Illinois University. The combined choirs of Millard South, West and North high schools performed it. A video of that performance is available on YouTube.

Once the music is published, the piece will be sent to music distributors in all 50 states, and the performance of the work “will really move into high gear,” he said.

Stevens said the choir's goal was always to have Kaspar's story told. He's looking forward to checking youtube for performances by other choirs.

“I feel that when someone sings this song, they get to know her as a person,” he said.

Initially Stevens was not sure the song would have appeal beyond those who experienced the tragedy. But he's convinced that it's a good song and one that conductors would like their students to experience. It is, however, a difficult piece that will challenge choirs, he said.

Stroope said people are already connecting emotinally to the song.

In composing the song, Stroope incorporated lines from a poem by 13th century Persian poet Rumi, who wrote: “You are the fearless rose that grows amidst the freezing wind.”

Colleagues, friends and family described Kaspar as a strong but fair disciplinarian, and a loving wife, mother and friend who cared for others before herself.

Stroope said everyone knows someone who has suffered tragedy, hardship or physical or emotional challenge, and the song helps people sort that out and gives them a mode of expression, whether in the audience or on stage.

Stroope taught choral music at the University of Nebraska at Omaha from 1987 to 2006 before moving to Stillwater, Okla.

When living in Omaha, he spent time in the Millard high schools working with their choirs. He directed the Bel Canto choir, an advanced Nebraska children's chorus, for 18 years. His daughter Brittany, who still lives in Omaha, was a member.

He has published about 120 works but only written three in response to tragedy.

His work, “Inscription of Hope,” was inspired by Jewish text on a cellar wall in Nazi Germany. The other work, “Legacy,” was commissioned by a Florida high school choir, whose members lost three fathers, all dying to different causes, in one semester.

“By only having three, I think I've really reserved any emotion that I have and have been able to put it into those and make them very special events,” he said.

The Millard piece, he said, “is probably the most tragic circumstance I've ever written for.”

The music will come with explanatory notes speaking to its inspiration and purpose.

At the top of the title page of the music, an introductory paragraph notes the song was commissioned by the Millard South Choir and dedicated to Dr. Vicki Kaspar, “administrator, teacher and friend.”

“May the beauty of her soul and the love she shared be remembered through this song,” it states.

The music will also come with a note from the publisher stating, “The significance of this work is born out of a tragedy that was once unheard of in our public and private schools.”

The piece, it says, is dedicated “to all victims of violence and oppression. May all of us be inspired by their courage, and be emboldened by their sacrifice.”

Contact the writer: 402-444-1077, joe.dejka@owh.com

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