Broadening and strengthening its music education initiative on the Emerald Coast, Sinfonia Gulf Coast recently announced the founding of Sinfonia Gulf Coast Youth Orchestra.

More than 50 Okaloosa and Walton County students from the Northwest Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra will transition into the new program. The youth orchestra will consist of two ensembles, the Sinfonia Youth Orchestra (SYO), the largest, will feature the full complement of instruments with primary memberships being the older more advanced students, and Sinfonietta Strings, which will focus on developing beginning string students to prepare them for the full orchestra.

ďThe incorporation of youth orchestra program into Sinfonia is an incredible opportunity, enhances our music education program and enables the organization to reach a wider demographic of students," said Demetrius Fuller, Sinfonia's music and artistic director. "We are fortunate to have one of the regionís most respected and experienced educators at the helm."

Liz Aylor has joined Sinfonia as the director of the youth orchestra. She comes from NWFSC, where she was director the college's youth orchestra program for 12 years. Aylor holds a Bachelor of Music Education from Heidelberg University and a Master of Arts degree from Case Western Reserve University. She has been featured in numerous publications, most recently "Florida Monthly" magazine. She is a member of the Association of String Teachers of America (ASTA), a Suzuki Association of the Americas accredited instructor and taught in the Okaloosa County School District for more than 35 years.

Both ensemble orchestras have recently returned from a performance at Universal Studios in Orlando and are preparing for their first combined public performance Sunday, May 18 at 3 p.m. at Grace Lutheran Church in Destin, 4325 Commons Dr., Destin. The event is free and open to the public.