After learning that Raymore-Peculiar High School did not have an official alma mater, Vocal Music Teacher Stephen Rew created one. Over the summer, he wrote the music and lyrics for the song. The first public performance of the alma mater was during the Nov. 15 pep assembly at the high school.
Rew, a Ray-Pec High School graduate, started wondering about the alma mater while attending college.
“I remember sitting in my Freshman Choir class at UMKC learning its alma mater,” he said. “Many of the singers around me began to share the alma mater from their schools. Lee's Summit, Blue Springs, Belton, Liberty and others all had their own songs about the school. All we (Ray-Pec) had was a fight song. I just assumed that Ray-Pec had an alma mater, but that no one had taught it to us or that it was no longer performed.”
When Rew returned to the high school as vocal music teacher for the 2017 school year, he learned that there was no alma mater in the school’s history. He talked with Principal Steven Miller, Activities Director Tom Kruse, and others about the importance of having an alma mater, which is an official song or anthem for a school.
Over the summer, Rew sat down to write a song for Ray-Pec.
“I researched what elements should be included, and researched common tunes, but in the end an original composition seemed right as I attempt to leave a legacy at Ray-Pec,” he said.
The song begins: “All hail to RP High, our home for learning true…to the black and the white and the gold we sing, alma mater unto you.” Rew said the tune and first line came easily as alma maters often begin with the name of the school and items connected to it.
“My first concert at RPHS dealt with the idea of ‘home,’ and I wanted to include an element of that, but I struggled throughout the summer to find the perfect message for the second half,” he said. “Our district's mission to prepare students for a successful and meaningful life was at the front of my mind. My goal for students is that they will achieve whatever future they find meaningful. It is captured in the line: ‘as the future calls us to chase our dreams.’ An RP grad myself, I wanted to capture the idea that many of us look back fondly on our school days. ‘...our thoughts will ever be with the place we called home...’.”
He also wanted to honor the staff that puts so much care and guidance into each and every student, and included the line: "...and the love we were shown and our Ray-Pec family."
During many drafts and versions practiced by the high school Chamber Singers, Rew worked to find the perfect harmonies and subtleties to make what he hopes will be a lasting composition for Ray-Pec.
"Once a Panther, Always a Panther … now we have a song to sing together!” he said.
The composition was a labor of love for Rew, who grew up in the community and is a 1999 graduate of Ray-Pec High School. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Conservatory of Music, and then taught vocal and instrumental music for one year in the Drexel School District, where he was selected Teacher of the Year in 2005. From 2005 to 2008, he taught vocal music at Ray-Pec Middle School. For the 2008-2009 school year, he was a graduate teaching assistant at UMKC, while he completed his Master’s degree in music education. He then returned to Ray-Pec in fall 2009 as vocal music teacher at Eagle Glen Intermediate School. He was selected Ray-Pec Teacher of the Year in 2013.
He held that position until taking the choral music director position in 2017 at Ray-Pec High School.
Rew is currently president of the Missouri Choral Directors Association.
Rew’s wife, Cinthia, is also a Ray-Pec graduate. They live in Raymore with their children Mason, who attends East Middle School, and Chloe, who attends Creekmoor Elementary. #peopleofraypec
(Photo by Student Braden Zaner)