Musical Musings

Sharing musical thoughts and ideas.

Grit Series - The Unapologetic Unicorn

Tuesday, October 12, 2021 by Paula Augustine | Parent Article

What is the Unapologetic Unicorn?

Our growth mindset focus will be the Unapologetic Unicorn. Stay with me on this! 

Have you every run across this at your house?

They go to start playing a piece, moving their hands across the keys play a wrong note and say “sorry, sorry!” Once they find their starting spot, they play a few bars before you hear “ugh”, then “oh, no…” and then a sigh and then another “sorry” at the end.

The Flagrant Unicorn doesn't apologize for getting glitter all over when practicing their magic doesn't work right. 

Children learn from a very early age to say 'sorry' when they do something wrong, but making a mishap when practicing their magical powers of playing their instrument is not the same thing!  There’s nothing to excuse when you play a wrong note. It’s part of the magical learning process and part of the performance process.

There are no mistakes, only happy little accidents. - Bob Ross

Your student will make many mistakes while learning a piece and this is nothing to apologize for. For some students practice can develop a negative association and putting on the cloak of apologizing for mistakes may contribute to this negative association.  Constant apologizing for practicing may also lead to a low self-esteem.

While students get their glitter all over when practicing we will be learning how to enjoy the process. With joy students can laugh at their mishaps. We may take a wrong note and make something new out of it. We may simply point out the fact that the composer did an awesome job choosing the notes in the piece, they sound really good. But, most important, we will learn practice is never perfect. Practice is a journey and there will always be something to improve.

Let your students unapoligetically make mistakes. This is all part of growing as a musician.

A secret talent students learn

Monday, September 13, 2021 by Paula Augustine | Parent Article

The Secret Talent of GRIT

Your student is gaining a secret hidden talent when they take lessons at Miss Paula's Music Studio. 


When a student comes in and says "I couldn't get the song this week." Most know I am going to say, "That's AWESOME!" Students soon learn we celebrate the difficult.

Grit is power of passion and perseverance for the long term. Grit is sticking with future goals and ideas day in and day out, working hard for the marathon rather than a short sprint. Grit is also known as growth mindset.

We do not always like the difficult, but deep down we know the difficult moves us forward. When a student doesn't get something, it is difficult. So we celebrate the difficult as a challenge and a path to success, rather than as failure, during lessons.

To help students through the difficult at the studio I assign deliberate practice areas, smaller chunks or specific ideas to focus on while practicing. All those sticky notes your student has in their books are more than just page markers. They have a specific deliberate practice area for the piece they are working. If the student chooses not to work on that section over the week they are generally re-assigned this deliberate practice area.

Deliberate practice is just one concept of the growth mindset or grit. I am part of the Vibrant Music Teacher Community and we teachers have been exploring new research and activities to help students with growth mindset. Over the summer I also completed the Music Mastery Course which delved even deeper into new research and ideas with growth mindset. 

This year we will begin exploring more areas of grit and growth with the students. We will learn specific mindsets which will help them further their studies and their outlook on life.

Each semester we will be covering two areas of growth mindset for kids in a fun way. I have games and stories to use. We will also be practicing these growth areas in our weekly practice goals. As I introduce the concepts I will have a quick article for parents describing the growth mindset we are covering. We can work together to grow confident students through music instruction.

“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.”

—Louisa May Alcot

*If you would like more information on Grit and Growth Mindset, Angela Lee Duckworth has a TED talk here: and a the book Grit.

*The website Character Lab offers tips and advice for parents and teachers on these concepts. This area of grit and growth mindset is researched by Psychologists to understand why talent is not enough. in fact, when a student is talented in something they may not excel as high as originally expected. Talented students find the area "easy" and when it gets difficult they may start to regress unless they accept to grow during new challenges and difficulties.

"In meticulous studies of chess, music, sports, and a range of other fields, Anders found that the willingness to engage in deliberate practice distinguishes the truly great from the merely good. Deliberate practice entails working with a coach or teacher to set specific challenging goals for improvement, concentrating completely while practicing, receiving immediate feedback, and then repeating the cycle again and again." Lauren Eskreis-Winkler 

Setting up for Zoom Lessons

Monday, August 16, 2021 by Paula Augustine | Parent Article

Zoom Lessons

In person lessons are my favorite, but I have found it is much better to offer online options than missing lessons! This has been a very positive outcome of quarantine efforts for Covid. Students in the studio have successfully had lessons through zoom not only for exposure quarantine, but also illness, family couldn't arrange transportation, vacations, and snow days. Continuing instruction over zoom has helped students move forward in musical growth.

There are a few easy guidelines which will make the zoom lesson much more successful.


  • Internet - High Speed internet is a basic requirement, but also make sure internet reaches the room where the piano is located, or where the instrumental student will be having the lesson.Bradley Sowash website image showing device position for online jazz piano lessons.jpg
  • Device - The larger the device the better. An ipad or larger tablet is a great option. Generally they are easier to place next to the student than a computer, but a computer works well too.
  • Battery Life - If an outlet is not available make sure the device is fully charged.
  • Zoom - Have zoom app installed on the device.
  • Placement - As a teacher I will need to see the students hands on the instrument. Piano players will need to show their keyboard and wind instruments will need to show the length of their instrument

Logging In

  • Close Unnecessary programs on the device. Turn the device on airplane mode or other mode to prevent messages other badges from interrupting.
  • Log into your portal at Use your login information on the home screen the lesson should be on the top right and click on the down carrot to show more and click on the zoom icon. You can also access this on the calendar.
  • Please have others in the house avoid uneccesary streaming video or playing online games at the lesson time.
  • When a student logs in they will be placed in a waiting room until I let them in.
  • During the lesson I may ask the student to mute themselves when I play something for an example. Show the student how to mute and unmute. Zoom will cut out music as it hears it as background noise. This is reduced when only one person has their mic on. I will generally mute when a student is playing so I can catch all their playing.

After your first time setting up, everything will go much smoother. If you have any questions or need any more help getting set up, please don’t hesitate to reach out.