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Baltimore County music students hit high notes in summer camp finale at Oregon Ridge Park

Stephen Miles, organizer of the Baltimore County Summer Instrumental Music Camp, had to cross his fingers and hope the weather would cooperate for the camp's outdoor concert Wednesday night, the culminating event of the week-long program.

Presented with a cool, clear — and dry — night at Oregon Ridge Park, the summer home of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the 311 county music students who had attended the week-long camp took care of the rest.

The students provided several hundred friends and family members who lined the grass in the park's concert area a true grand finale.

The concert featured a sixth- and seventh-grade band, eighth-grade band, high school band and an orchestra of rising sixth-12th graders, and was the culmination of a focused, but relaxed, week of music training, held at Cockeysville Middle School.

Each group played a set — from a medley of songs from "Pirates of the Carribean" to orchestra rendition of Coldplay's "Clocks."

The selections were made with the taste of the students in mind — one was intended to sound like rock and roll through the ears of a vampire — but still showed off the students' talents.

While waiting with friends on the lawn for his band's performance, Aiden Devaney, 13, a rising eighth-grader at Dumbarton Middle School, said he enjoyed every aspect of the camp, from the teachers and their instruction to the new friends he made along the way.

One of six percussionists in the eighth-grade band, Aiden and fellow drummer Ryan Lawrence, 13, also a rising eighth-grader at Dumbarton, said they enjoyed the attention teachers provided in the small group setting.

On top of two one-hour sessions with the full band, once at the beginning of each day and once at the end, instrumental sections held two separate hour-long sessions each day.

Ryan said aside from meeting new friends from all over the county, he enjoyed the improvement he saw in his own playing, especially news techniques and rhythms.

But just as important for some of the music students was the social aspect of the camp. Some knew each other from the All-County band or previous camps, but the atmosphere and a daily schedule with recess allowed students to foster friendships spanning the county.

Miles said students came from as far as Dundalk and Arbutus, with all areas of the county represented at the camp.

Aiden and Ryan, along with Dumbaton classmates Daniel Rivkin and Ryan Foretich, befriended Jordan Nicolette, 13, of Cockeysville, and annexed him into their group of friends by the time the week was over.

"I've met kids from all over," Jordan said. "It's been a great time."

Other students enjoyed the opportunity to learn from fellow performers, something that Christian Ryan, 17, of Rosedale, said can happen no matter how old you get.

"This is the first year they've had rising sixth-graders here, but be it sixth-graders or 12th-graders, everyone can learn from everyone else at this camp," Christian said.

Christian began playing the cello in fifth grade, and though the camp is usually limited to rising high-school seniors, the recent Parkville High School graduate returned for one last week before he heads to Towson University in the fall.

Despite being one of the most experienced students at the camp, he still managed to learn something new.

"I've never played with 31 cellos before," Christian said. "My orchestra in school wasn't this big. In professional orchestras, there are maybe 13 cellos. You have to vary the sound, or else it will overpower the whole orchestra."

The camp is staffed by music teachers from the county school system, all of whom give up a portion of their summer vacations to continue the students' musical eduation.

Some sacrifice even more.

Courtney Croxton, 30, of Towson, leads the orchestra at Perry Hall Middle School and spent the end of the school year on maternity leave after giving birth just 10 weeks ago.

But she said she desperately wanted to come back to work at the camp, an event that she said is beneficial for all involved.

"This is all day with the kids, not just a class each day," she said. "We change it up for them, putting them in little sections, then big groups. We play games like 'Name That Tune,' which the kids get really excited for. And it's great to get to work with my friends and colleagues."

Croxton attended the camp, which is in its 26th year, as a child, beginning when she was an eighth grader at Dumbarton, and encourages her students at Perry Hall to come every year.

"It's really a great camp," she said. "It's a week of private lessons for the students at a low cost.

"And to get to do this at Oregon Ridge, it's really impressive," she said of the closing concert. "There's not much more you can ask for."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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