It's a scene that epitomizes summer: lawn chairs on the grass, picnic food at the ready, children playing, the air infused with music.

Such a divine air will be coming to Orange County parks once again thanks to the Pacific Symphony and its annual "Symphony in the Cities" series supported by Target.

And, like in years past, the concerts come to music lovers' ears at the divine price of free.

The series, now in its eighth year, begins Saturday at Oso Viejo Park in Mission Viejo, then continues Sunday at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine. The last concert is at Pittsford Park in Lake Forest on Aug. 19.

All three concerts start at 7 p.m. and will have other family-friendly festivities beginning at 4 p.m. at the Mission Viejo concert and at 5:30 p.m. for the Irvine and Lake Forest ones.

The theme this year is "Spanish Nights and American Flair." Led by the symphony's longtime conductor, Carl St.Clair, the repertoire will include Spanish-influenced music, Sousa marches and even a guitar ensemble.

Symphony officials are also encouraging patrons to bring cans of food to donate.

Oso Viejo Park is at 24932 Veterans Way, Mission Viejo. The Great Park is off Marine Way in Irvine, and Pittsford Park is at 21701 Pittsford Drive, Lake Forest.

For more information about "Symphony in the Cities," visit http://www.pacificsymphony.org/SITC or call (714) 755-5799.

In other Pacific Symphony news, the organization's educational efforts look to be seeing some big successes this summer.

This month, the symphony debuted a new pilot program called Santa Ana Summer Strings, which is giving more than 150 fourth- and fifth-graders five weeks of professional instruction on the violin.

The students are from three Santa Ana Unified School District elementary school campuses: Diamond, Harvey and King.

The program provides an average of five hours of violin instruction each week by SAUSD music teachers at the three schools, according to a symphony press release. Then on Thursdays, all the students get bused to a single site to rehearse together alongside Pacific Symphony musicians.

Summer Strings began June 20 and runs through July 31.

It's a partnership of the SAUSD, Pacific Symphony and THINK Together, a Santa Ana-based nonprofit that provides academic opportunities to youth within more than 30 school districts throughout Southern California.

"We've dreamed for years about bringing hundreds of young children together to experience the joy of making music together in a large group," said Pam Blaine, the symphony's vice president of education and community outreach, in a release. "By combining resources with these two great partners, we're accomplishing that dream."

The community and parents of Summer Strings participants will get to see and hear the children's efforts at Sunday's "Symphony in the Cities" concert at the Great Park. With a few of the symphony professionals alongside them, the violinists will provide some well-rehearsed, pre-concert entertainment.

And wearing their bright red Summer Strings T-shirts, they won't be hard to miss. So be sure to give them a high-five and encourage them to continue onward in their musical careers.

One of the participants — a particularly enthused King student named Litzy — was quoted as proclaiming: "The teachers taught me how to play songs and sing to the notes. I am now a musician!"

BRADLEY ZINT is a classically trained musician and a copy editor for the Daily Pilot. Email him story ideas at bradley.zint@latimes.com or follow him on Twitter @BradleyZint.