Mother Nature often sings her own sweet song through the movement of trees, the babbling of a brook or the gentle blowing of the wind.
But last week, Mother Nature received a complement to her song -- the accompaniment of a string orchestra.
About 50 county middle and high school students spent last week at Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center, on the south shore of the Severn River, participating in a week-long program to enhance their musical talents.
"We have no problem getting students to come to this camp," said coordinator Diane Gerrior. "There's always a waiting list."
Students must apply and audition to be accepted into the camps, which cost $275 per week and run for three weeks. The first week is for band students, the second week for chorus, the third for strings only.
Through a light rain and soft thunder, the sounds of violas, violins, cellos and bass could be heard wafting through the trees as students played the "William Tell Overture."
"I know you're getting tired," one of music instructors told students in Band B, "but I know you can do this. I'm not giving up on this part."
Over and over, students practiced their music as teachers moved among the band members correcting their mistakes.
"Ta-ta-ti-ti-ta," one said. "Try it again."
"You're letting that note hang over," said another. "Don't let your bow rest there. Just take it off."
Students begin their days early, about 7 a.m. -- with cold showers, many said. But a good breakfast makes up for it, they added.
From 9 to 10:30 a.m., the two bands rehearse several pieces of music almost non-stop. Then they break into smaller groups, some receiving individual lessons, others participating in a Theory of Music class.
Five hours a day for one week, the students do nothing but work on music. Another four hours is set aside for play: canoeing, swimming, volleyball and crabbing.
In the evenings, a concert is given for the students' benefit. Even the concerts are fun, as musicians perform such classics as "The Brady Bunch" theme.
But the next day, students again become serious musicians, practicing intently. Students agreed the camp involves a lot of hard work, but none said they would trade their week at camp for anything.
"I wish it was a month," said 14-year-old bass player Chris Larsen. "You meet a lot of nice people. And it's better than school. It's fun."
Chris, who will be a ninth-grade student at Severna Park in the fall, is spending his third summer at the camp. He hopes to return again next summer.
"You just learn a lot about music," he said. "I've learned more in a whole week than I learned in a whole year at school."
Melanie Morrison, a 15-year-old violin player, returned to the camp for her fourth time this year.
"It's a really good experience," said Melanie, a Broadneck High sophomore. "We really have a lot of fun and we just learn so much. And we get to do a lot of other things, like volleyball and swimming. And we're going to have a talent show. Our group is putting on a skit."
After all the hard work, students have the opportunity to show off their newly acquired skills in a concert at the end of the week for friends and family.
"I'm not nervous," said first-time camp attendee and violin player Robyn Birch, 10. "I'm just sorry that the week is over. I don't want to go home."