Just as 12-year-old Almira Fawn Southworth moved Lexington audiences who heard her sing and play guitar, now the local music community hopes to help the young girl whose mother was killed last month.
Two benefit concerts will be held for Almira in August and ticket sales from both events will be donated to the Umi Southworth Memorial Fund administered by Central Bank, named for Almira's mother.
Almira was just beginning to garner national attention for her singing, song writing and guitar playing when Umi Southworth died on June 9.
"Her career ... was just taking shape when she lost the one anchor she had in her life," said friend and folk singer Michael Johnathan.
Almira was already well-known in Lexington, regularly playing at bars, restaurants and the Farmer's Market. She is the youngest artist ever featured on the Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour, Johnathan said, in an episode that aired nationally on PBS.
This summer, Almira and her mother planned to move to Nashville to work on a new album. Buck Williams, owner of Progressive Global Agency, a booking and management company, said a record deal for Almira was in the early stages, though the young singer had plenty of work to do before a deal could be signed.
"We had plans of putting her in the studio the week after she got there to start writing and developing songs," Williams said.
But, just days before Almira and her mother were scheduled to move, Umi Southworth, was found badly beaten behind her home on Meadowthorpe Avenue. She died the next day.
No arrests have been made. Friends say Almira is in protective custody out-of-state
After the slaying, the Meadowthorpe Neighborhood Association set up the memorial fund at Central Bank. Donations to the fund will go towards Almira's education. Ticket sales and some concession sales from two upcoming concerts will go toward that cause.
On Aug. 3, Woodsongs will host the first benefit concert at The Kentucky Theatre downtown.
Johnathan is organizing the concert; he was present at Almira's first Woodsongs performance, where she got to meet her idol, blues artist JJ Grey, on stage.
The second concert, LexRock: Music for Almira, will be held on Aug. 8 at Buster's Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester Street.
Family friend and local radio disc jockey Tabatha Levrault is organizing the concert at Buster's. She said Umi and Don Southworth used to babysit her daughter, who is friends with Almira.
The concert "is my way of returning the favor," she said.
Although Almira probably will not attend the concerts, her friends hope the benefits will give the community a chance to support the young artist, who seems destined for fame.
"She is so beyond her years musically, and that's why I think so many people are reaching out," Levrault said. "It's a tough situation. We all want to help her anyway we can."
Williams said he hasn't talked to Almira much about her career because he believes she needs to focus on healing.
"If she chooses to do that through music, that's great," Williams said.