History

Historical McKenzie House Foundation is committed to keeping alive the long traditions of the Robert Lee McKenzie family, the first Mayor of Panama City, the first Chairman of the first Board of County Commissioners for Bay County and a State Legislator. Foremost of which was the family’s commitment to providing a regular venue for musical artists from the community. Beginning in 1925, regular Sunday afternoon concerts were held in the main living room of the house. Today, the Historical McKenzie Foundation is committed to continuing this tradition of community service as the founder and proud sponsor of the Panama City Youth Orchestra. The Panama City Youth Orchestra was started in 2009 by Foundation President, Cathy Stevens, and the Panama City Youth Orchestra is now being operated by the Historical McKenzie House Foundation. A long time musician and granddaughter of Robert Lee McKenzie, Cathy often performed at the McKenzie House as a child. Upon her return home to Panama City, she immediately saw a need in the community for string ensembles. Cathy’s vision was to have a youth orchestra that would help stimulate growth and excellence in music education and to engage and serve the community. The Panama City Youth Orchestra is the only youth group of its kind in Bay and Walton County. The group is open to all ages of kids and there are no try outs to join the Orchestra. The program is tuition free and the leadership is all volunteer.

So far this has been a grassroots campaign with the generosity of our conductor, Cody Smith, local music teachers, parents and our founder, Cathy Stevens. With the help of a grant, the Panama City Youth Orchestra would be able to expand as an after-school music program with social development components as well as increasing the number of community service performances.