PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — It was a night of music and celebration at First Baptist Church in Downtown Panama City on Thursday.
The Panama Youth Orchestra performed their Fall Centennial Concert.
The all-volunteer orchestra commemorated its tenth anniversary and started the night with performances from students learning under the Suzuki method, which starts music lessons with children as young as three.
The group’s rehearsal space at the Historic McKenzie House was destroyed during Hurricane Michael forcing them to rehearse at Gulf Coast State College while repairs are being completed.
Conductor Cody Smith said playing music gives the children a sense of stability in an uncertain time. “They’re displaced like the majority of our society and our community and yet they come here and they feel together,” said Smith. “They don’t feel like they’re fighting against the odds here. We’re all just cohesive.”
Smith also highlighted just how important the program has become for the performers.
“The first thing we heard from after the hurricane wasn’t about insurance companies, it was about these students wanting to come back to rehearsal. This is the most important thing to a lot of them. It gives them that one sense of normalness.”
Since the group is entirely volunteer driven, they are always in need of those willing to help, especially adult musicians able to play in their ensemble and help mentor aspiring players. Their contact information can be found on their website.