RAISE YOUR VOICE

Musicians Laura Donohue and Fleming McWilliams are empowering young girls to raise their voices through music. 

Now in its third year of operation, Girls Up Loud offers summers camps and workshops for middle and high school aged girls, teaching them that they can sing together and still dance to their own beat. 

"Fleming and I always say that we started out with the vision of creating a singing camp and realized quickly that it was going to be so much more - that the music is simply the vehicle," says Donohue. 

With Donohue and McWilliams as their maestras, the girls embark on a whirlwind week of wailing on a variety of songs, many of which were originally performed by other talented women. All genres are welcome and all the girls play a part. 

"When you hear the girls sing the Christina Aguilera song, 'Beautiful,' or 'Brave' by Sara Bareilles, the songs take on a whole new meaning," says McWilliams. "It takes you right back there again, back to your own middle school experience and how different it might have been if you had been a part of a group like Girls Up Loud." 

Located in the heart of East Nashville, one of the city's most musical neighborhoods, Girls Up Loud has become fast friends with other local businesses. Fanny's House of Music has provided scholarships for some of the campers as well as performance opportunities, including a slot at the Tomato Art Festival, while Eastside Manor has hosted much of the programming. 

Donohue and McWilliams have also called in favors from a few friends of their own, with guests like musicians Katie Herzig and Butterfly Boucher stopping by camp. 

"I think the girls realize it's a pretty cool thing to have these women, and sometimes men, stopping by to spend time with them," says Donohue. 

And, she says, as Girls Up Loud has grown, even more people have offered to lend their voices. 

"Now we have members of the community coming to us to ask if they can be involved, so that's really an honor."

Donohue, McWilliams, and the girls are warming up for their biggest summer yet, with three summer camps and their first EP in the works with Indigo Girls producer Jordan Hamlin. Donohue says they also hope to develop more year-round programming and to grow the program beyond their immediate community, empowering girls all over Nashville to sing out loud. 

"After their performances at the 2013 and 2014 Tomato Art Festivals, the girls got a reputation for making grown men cry," says McWilliams. "It's a very powerful experience to hear these girls, each expressing her individuality and singing her heart out." 

- Nathan Diller