LUMBERTON — It’s music that has Charly Lowry singing a hopeful tune.
She credits music with broadening her horizons and showing her a world outside of Robeson County, which she says has a history that is stuck on repeat.
“When something bad happens here, people just say, ‘Well, it’s Robeson County. What do you expect?’” Lowry said. “I want that to change.”
Lowry, who is the lead singer of Dark Water Rising, a local indie rock group, believes the perfect catalyst for change could be what helped her — music. One result is “Peace in the Park,” a free concert series taking place each Thursday in September from 7 to 9 p.m. at Pembroke Town Park.
Featuring regionally and nationally touring bands like The Beast, Jeanne Jolly and Jana, as well as arts and crafts vendors from the River Roots Arts Guild, Lowry says the concert serves two purposes.
“When I got down the heart of things, I really thought about my nieces and nephews too,” Lowry said. “They’re not ones that will say that there’s nothing to do and that they hate it here, but they’re also blinded to all the performance arts. It’s like they don’t know they exist. I’d like to get younger generations more exposed to performance arts.”
Lowry, who was born and raised in Pembroke, credits pageants with introducing her to the stage. At ages 7 and 8 she participated in the competitions, always falling a little short. After she won Jr. Miss Lumbee at age 12, she started traveling and performing.
“It gave me a chance to interact with people other than people in Pembroke and Robeson County. It opened my eyes that there’s more out there,” Lowry said.
The result of those interactions with people and musicians across the state and country have formed the lineup for “Peace in the Park.” The bands set to perform cover a multitude of genres.
The Beast, a hip-hop jazz quartet, kicks off the event on Thursday. According to a statement, The Beast offers a “high-energy live show and exceptional compositions.”
Jeanne Jolly, a classically trained vocalist, performs Sept. 13. According to Metro Magazine in Raleigh, Jolly has a voice like “the delicate lilt of Alison Krauss.”
Jana, who takes the stage Sept. 20, said that her music “conveys my personal truths and beliefs.”
“The bands are all very different, but they all have a message,” said Lowry, whose band performs during the finale on Sept. 27. “When they step on the stage to perform and you listen to their music, you can tell that’s their purpose.”
Lowry says the performers are socially conscious and try to leave the crowd with a positive message.
In addition to the music, a “positive-affirmations table” will be featured. Concert-goers will have a chance to write positive characteristics about themselves to be photographed and featured in a collage. The idea, which was the brain child of April Whittemore-Locklear, who works at the Transfer Transitions Office at UNCP, is intended to boost self-esteem.
“April was basically saying that we all have these positive traits and characteristics but we’re taught not to toot our own horns or shed light on those things, it’s a way to hear those things out loud and have them validated,” Lowry said.
“Peace in the Park” will also feature a candlelight vigil set to live acoustic music every night between 8:30 and 9 p.m. to honor victims of domestic violence and abuse, victims Lowry says suffer greatest from a low self-esteem.
The concert series will also feature healthy food options. Lowry rattles off a list of possible ingredients — among them avocado and cilantro. “Healthy options,” she says, “but ones locals may not always think of.”
While Lowry knows that “Peace in the Park” isn’t the answer to the world’s problems, she hopes it will help Robeson County change its chorus.
“We need more positive thinking, less domestic violence, substance abuse and bullying,” Lowry said. “We need to promote peace instead of focusing on the violence. We want to promote the park as an outdoor venue for the performance arts and to also take that stand against violence.”