Thursday Notes – December 4th, 2014

How We Do It and Why

By Mary Siebert
A Well-Tempered Mind demonstrates that by working together, we can make a difference in our children’s lives and replace cultural bankruptcy with a full pocket of good music.  Lord knows we need it.”—Wynton Marsalis, Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center

“This book should persuade parents and administrators to give education in music its deserved high priority in the schools under their care.” —Walter J. Freeman, M.D., professor of Neuroscience and Molecular & Cellular Biology, UC Berkeley


Five adult musicians perch on teensy first grade chairs, gleaming instruments at their lips. A criss-cross legged group of first-graders gathers curiously on the carpet.  There is a nod, a collective deep breath, a glorious burst of music. Little eyes grow wide and round, little mouths drop open. Wiggles become statues, leaning forward. One little girl turns to stare at me, flushed with delight, as if to say “Can you believe this miracle?” then she quickly turns back. When the music stops, the children sit in bewildered, delighted silence for a moment. The classroom teacher begins the applause, children join in. The smiling musicians introduce themselves and their instruments, and ask the children for comparisons. “What is the same about these instruments? What is different? Which one plays the lowest?” (Demonstrations follow.) The children learn that small instruments play higher than large instruments, just as little dogs have high barks and big dogs have low barks.   It is the first day of “Quintet” in the 1st Grade.

The Quintet has worked with ABS students every year, since we opened our doors in 2002. They will visit first grade classrooms eight times over the next two weeks, linking their performances with the first grade academic curriculum. The work of this distinguished group of professional musicians is chronicled in A Well-Tempered Mind, a book (available on-line on Amazon and from the University of Chicago Press,) by Peter Perret. Maestro Perret is Conductor Emeritus of the Winston-Salem Symphony, ABS band director, and one of the founders of our school. He was inspired to create the “Bolton Quintet” after reading of experiments in neuroscience that produced evidence that active listening to music helps develop cognitive abilities in children. With five instrumentalists from the W-S Symphony, he designed a cleverly crafted curriculum that links with reading, comprehension, story structure, science, and math. Mr. Perret worked with Dr. Frank Wood, professor of Neuropsychology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, to develop and test the Quintet program. ABS participated in the study, which was shown to cause significant improvement in emerging readers, reflected on standardized test scores.

One of the hallmarks of the group is that they perform right in the classroom; not in a concert hall. The children grow to regard these musicians (and their instruments) as friends. Music is selected and prepared with meticulous care, including everything from Mozart to the Pink Panther; all performed just a few feet away from 1st graders’ ears. We are honored and delighted to host the Quintet again this year.


ABS Capital Campaign

-Jason Ekstein, ABS Parent

The human cultures that have survived though millennia of turmoil and persecution have done so primarily because of an understanding of the importance of legacy.  What we leave behind is just as important as what we do in this lifetime.  Our children are our greatest legacy, and how they start out this life greatly determines whether they will thrive in it.  We want our children to be independent free thinkers, not stuck in a box of tests, tests, and more tests.  We want our children to be at the center of innovative thinking, not have “the only right way” forced upon them.  We want our children to be the leaders of tomorrow.

By giving to the ABS capital campaign, we are helping to ensure that our children are poised for success.  Our donations are funding those things that will keep our kids in this engaging, enlightening, special environment for years to come, giving them the best possible chance for long term success.  We are helping to pay for building and grounds, the classrooms, art space, music space, performance space, and new technologies.

When you are considering donating to the Capital Campaign, please remember how special a place ABS is, and how lucky we are to have our children here: a cutting edge, outstanding, open-minded educational institution where we and our children feel safe, loved, and a desire to learn.   Please click on this link and make your pledge to the Arts Based School capital campaign.


December Parent Council Meeting

Please mark your calendars for our next Parent Council Meeting on Friday, December 12th at 8:15am in the Teacher Resource Room of the MLK building.  Please submit any requests for agenda items to Shannon Wright ( or Michelle Lawrence ( by tomorrow – December 5th.


Need Band Volunteers!

We are in need of a new Parent Rep for Maestro Peter Perret.  This person would assist Maestro in minor maintenance/repair to instruments as well as help recruit volunteers to assist during class.  We need parent volunteers to assist with the larger band classes (42-46 students per class!).  Classes that need assistance meet Monday-Thursdays 11:50am-12:45pm and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:15-9:10am.  This is great way to earn your volunteer hours!  Please contact Shannon Wright ( or Michelle Lawrence ( if you can help.  Thank you!


Help Wanted

It usually starts with a husky voice and hacking cough on an early morning call.   It’s a teacher calling to say that (s)he can’t make it to school today.  That’s when we call in a super sub!  Many of our greatest subs are parents of our students who have a background in teaching or experience working with young children.  If you have these special qualities and would enjoy spending the day with twenty joyful, exuberant, and sometimes surprising students, please email Stephanie May at with your contact information to be included on the sub list!  Teaching experience is required.


Happy Holidays

The holidays can be perplexing for American educators. The North Carolina Standard Course of Study (guidelines for what children should be taught at each grade level) specifies only first grade as a time for focusing on celebrated holidays and special days in communities, while nearly every other grade is expected only to discuss historical figures and practices associated with diverse holidays.  We respect the religious and cultural backgrounds of every student.

Holiday decorations are not used indiscriminately in the classroom or about the school; though they may be used as part of a focused study. We do encourage fun in learning and discovering.  We decorate our walls all year with the brilliant creations of our students. We often incorporate delicious receptions into our art openings and performances. We join together singing songs of peace and understanding. Thank you for supporting us in making every child feel included in the delights of learning together.


Crisis Control Canned Food Challenge

The K-Kids and the Builders Club are co-sponsoring a canned food drive for Crisis Control during November and December. Cans will be collected in the hallways outside each grade level through December 10.   Let the “No-Hunger Games” begin!