PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — During lunch hour Monday in downtown Peoria, local children’s bands, choirs, and orchestras performed for the city to promote peace.

The small, informal performance, “Peace Plays in Peoria,” is an anti-violence music festival for the city, still suffering from heavy gun and drug violence.

“Especially with the recent violence within the world, we really wanted to host an anti-violence music festival, because music can be healing and bring communities together,” said Atsuko Haarz, Orchestra Director at Richwoods High School. “We teamed up with local teachers in the Peoria area and Morton area and collaborated on making this event happen.”

Check out an excerpt from the concert here:

All the music had a similar theme of peace. For example, the orchestra closed its set with The Beatles’ “Hey Jude.”

“It’s such a monumental piece of music in history that really represents peace,” Haarz said.

Outdoor performances like these were put on pause when COVID-19 hit.

“That’s what we’re here for. That’s what all the teachers are here for– for these students to have these kinds of opportunities and to play music together,” Haarz said.

Katrina Fitzpatrick, event coordinator and band director at Morton Jr. High School, said she had the idea for the event before the pandemic, but of course it was pushed back until now.

“It was a little nerve-wracking, because the students met each other this morning and we had a rehearsal before the concert, but the kids were all super prepared and it was just really an awesome moment to hear the music come to life,” Fitzpatrick said.

“I think the arts is so vitally important to all students. It’s a wonderful place to heal,” Fitzpatrick continued. “With all the things going on in this world, there’s some ugly stuff. But music is comforting and it’s healing.”

Ensembles came from the following District 150 schools: Peoria High School, Manual High School, Richwoods High School, Morton High School, Rolling Acres Middle School, Morton Jr. High School, and Glen Oak Community Learning Center.

The students from each school came together for the first time to play a combined orchestra set, followed by a band set and ending with a choral set.