A Well-Tempered Mind

Using Music to Help Children Listen and Learn

Peter Perret, conductor of the Winston-Salem Symphony for more than 25 years, wondered if placing a woodwind quintet in a poorly performing elementary school might help students academically. He decided to try, and the result was an eye-brow raising jump in the children’s test scores—and this book.

Perret describes an innovative program for first-through third-graders at two elementary schools in Winston-Salem and a journey of discovery into the brain for him. The quintet taught the children to listen to music, detect the roles of the instruments, discern how music is constructed, and even compose their own music, all the while integrating the lessons into the children’s regular courses. Providing a mix of classroom vignettes, music theory, and findings in one of the newest areas of brain research, Perret shows how the Bolton program gave life to a host of tantalizing questions: Does music physically change the brain? Is music a primary language of the brain? Does music affect any cognitive abilities needed for reading and math? Can music help kids with short attention spans, dyslexia, and other learning difficulties? How did the musicians in the classroom contribute to the children’s academic improvement?

A charming, inspiring reading experience, A Well-Tempered Mind describes the program in detail and offers valuable advice to parents, educators, and would-be teaching artists for designing music program approaches to suit their means and situations.


Foreword by Maya Angelou




Chapter 1: Fanfare

Chapter 2: Lessons from the Pied Piper

Chapter 3: Overture

Chapter 4: Getting to Know All About You

Chapter 5: Building Bridges

Chapter 6: Models and Mentors

Chapter 7: Learning to Listen

Chapter 8: A Symphony of Neurons

Chapter 9: Can You Say "Legato"?

Chapter 10: As Time Goes By

Chapter 11: Is Music a Reading Teacher?

Chapter 12: Listening to Learn

Chapter 13: Young Composers

Chapter 14: Once Upon a Time

Chapter 15: Beyond Bolton: Theme and Variations

Chapter 16: Coda: Play It Again

Do Try This at Home



Suggestions for Further Reading



"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, Jazz at Lincoln Center