ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Hundreds of young women from across central Virginia are banding together for the 6th annual WinterSongs Concert.
The concert started as a tribute to University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, who was murdered in 2014. The performance raises money for the Shelter for Help in Emergency (SHE), a nonprofit supporting survivors of domestic violence.
“We’re choosing to use music to answer the violence against women,” Burley Middle School Choral Director Craig Jennings said. “Your voice is a large part of your identity, and so putting it out there to be heard and judged requires a certain level of vulnerability and bravery.”
Jennings organizes the entire performance, which brings together nearly 300 young women from a dozen schools. The director said he wants his female vocalists to be confident and empowered.
“Drawing people in, raising awareness during the concert, using female forward songs hopefully will bring in a fair amount of donations, but also the young women who are being served, they get a lot out of the day,” Jennings said.
Aven Buchanan is one of the students performing in WinterSongs. She’s an eighth grader at Burley Middle School.
“I've been singing for as long as I can remember and it's just kind of an escape for me, it lets me put my emotions somewhere safely,” Buchanan said. “I just think it's really great like opportunity and it has a great message to women empowerment, I think we need more of that in our lives and I think WinterSongs is great for that.”
Ahead of the performance, students also learn more about strategies to raise awareness on topics related to relationship violence.
“It teaches us a lot about how we can stay safe and also like what’s going on and what we need to be aware of, and just how we can be stronger and learn from it,” Buchanan said.
“The discussion has to be had, we have to have conversations around what healthy relationships look like,” Jennings said.
The WinterSongs concert will be held at Monticello High School at 5 p.m. Saturday, February 29. The performance is free, but organizers encourage people to give a tax-deductible donation. You can also donate online.