Studio Awards 

Policies and Procedures

Like many teachers, at my studio’s spring recital, I hand out awards to recognize not only student achievements but their commitment to piano year after year. Team sports do it, so can we!




A colleague of mine who has a new and quickly growing studio, recently posted in a Facebook group asking how in the world teachers with large studios kept track of everything – especially when it came to recitals. Well, my friend, this post is for you as I’m about to share not only the various awards that I give from year to year but how I organize and track everything.

The year I opened my studio, I sat down and devised my system. Consistency from year to year was important, and I didn’t want to re-invent the wheel each spring researching and trying to remember where I purchased awards and such. The best way I knew to do that was to write up a document similar to what most organizations call a “Policies and Procedures Manual.” Now, this isn’t a formal written-in-prose manual; it’s more of an informational reference guide.

Download my award policies and procedures manual for free!

Keep it for reference, use the same system, or use it as a guide to devise your system. Whatever you do, be consistent from year to year.

Besides my little manual, I keep a listing of students and their years of study. The next year, I copy and paste the page, rename for the current year, and cut and paste the students, shifting them down a year. It takes about 10 minutes. If I have transfer students, I text the parents to confirm exactly how long they studied lessons before me and that they agree with the years of study I will be awarding.

To help keep track of your students, I made a basic template of the document I use. It’s in MS Word format so you can make changes as needed!

Download it here for free.

There are several different awards I give at the recital.


MTNA Music Study Award

All students receive a certificate for years of study. Music Teachers National Association offers members in the “members-only” section of their site, access to several different award programs that teachers can implement. They have a free certificate available for download signed by the current MTNA President and the Executive Director and C.E.O. The certificate is a fill-in form template that allows you to type in each student’s name. I print them on heavy white cardstock. You could also use special document paper.

Update (May 11, 2016): It’s a bit tricky to find the certificate on the MTNA website. After you log in to “Members-Only”, click on “Music for Everyone,” then both the Music Study Award Program and Music Achievement Award Programs I use are there.

Every two years students receive a “bonus” item besides the certificate. At years two and four, they get a small lapel pin and for years six, eight, and ten they receive a trophy – progressively larger each year.

When it comes to years of study, I am also going to start implementing a legacy award, which I learned about from a friend and colleague. All students who study (with me) for eight years will have their name added to a plaque on the studio wall. I’ve only been in business for five full years at the time of this post, so it will be a few years before anything happens with that, but I love the idea, thanks, Christina!


Clavier’s Piano Explorer Practice Challenge

This year I decided to offer my students the (optional) opportunity to do Piano Explorer Magazine’s Practice Challenge. Students who complete any level of the challenge (100, 200, 300 days practice, etc.) will get a certificate (available on their website). They also get their name listed in the Clavier Companion magazine.


Event Participation

Any students who participate in outside events throughout the year are given their ribbons and certificates at the recital. For example, I had students participate in our state’s Achievement in Music Festival in March. They were given their certificate and medal the day of, but the theory ribbon is distributed to teachers after the event is over. I announce the student’s participation, and it’s nice to have their ribbons to give to them at that time.

Several students also participate in our state’s OPUS Composition Festival. They return the comments and ribbons in late April, so I wait and hand out certificates and ribbons at the recital.

I realize this delays students in getting their awards. However, I not only like having a formal award time but I think it’s important for students to see what’s possible for those who go above and beyond.


MTNA Music Achievement Award Program

Another member program offered by MTNA. I did this for several years and in my effort to keep things simple and reduce activities, I did not offer it the last couple years. I may start offering it again because it was a good program but when I do, it is optional. Students have to complete several outside musical tasks such as writing composer reports, composing pieces, and more. I give them a huge array of things to choose from and MTNA has an implementation pack to help you get started. Students who complete this get a small plaque at the recital that says “Music Achievement Award,” and I take them to a professional performance such as the Philharmonic. (I do charge a small fee for them to enroll in this program because of the high cost of the award).


One-Minute Club

Thanks to the comments of a reader after my initial publication of this post, I completely forgot about my One-Minute Club. (So this paragraph is an added edit).

Each year all students are required to participate in the One-Minute Club Challenge made popular (I thin) by Susan Paradis. The winner with the fastest time is announced at the recital. In the past, I had just one winner but decided this year I’m going to have a winner for elementary grades K-6 a winner for grades 7-12. Each winner receives a $10 gift card to a store/restaurant of their choice.


Other Awards

I’ve thought about giving out other awards like top memorizer, etc. but haven’t done so yet. If you’ve ever heard of Phillip Johnston’s The Practice Revolution, it’s chock-full of ideas for unique awards.


What kind of awards do you give?



  • What great suggestions! I love the plaque idea! I actually have a big poster in my studio where all my students sign – it has been nice to see it fill up! I use the MTNA Achievement Awards to set Goals at the beginning of the year. This is an awesome exercise as some of the goals are teacher driven and some are student driven. Throughout the year we check off what we have accomplished. It is a great “summary” sheet as well that helps me look back through the years to see growth and areas where growth is still needed. I use the MTNA template. As the year end approaches we review goals again with the student – whatever goal we did not reach automatically goes on next year’s list! They get a certificate at the recital!

    • Hey Maria – I really like the idea of having their goals out where everyone can see them! Goal setting is certainly a benefit of lessons that is easy to sometimes overlook, isn’t it!? I also like that you have them automatically push goals not achieved to the list for the following year. I do the same with my personal goals from week to week, month to month and year to year, so why not in piano? Applying everyday life skills in lessons is so important. Thanks for sharing!

  • I didn’t know about all of these programs available on the MTNA site–thank you! I offer medals for Memorizing 10 pieces, Sight Reading 200 pages, Performing for 100 people and Composing 5 songs. I also offer a Perfect Practicing trophy but that one gives me headaches every year. My husband calls it the “Perfect Lying” trophy, ha ha. I have a hard time awarding that trophy to students that can’t even play their recital pieces. Record-keeping by some parents and students is questionable to say the least. Really need to get rid of that trophy or call it something else. Ideas?

    • I love all the medal I ideas you listed! I may have to consider using some of those – thanks for sharing! I assume by “perfect practicing” you specify that it’s for those that record consistent practice – like 5 days a week or something like that? In that case, I also assume you give out multiple of those awards. In that case, yes Perfect Practicing is perhaps not the best wording because it’s more about dedication and consistency rather than “perfect” a.k.a. smart practicing. You could call it “Perfect attendance practice award” or something along those lines. You may consider implementing the Clavier 100-200-300 day practice challenge to replace that award. They have to practice every single day (I give then a few flexible options). Also, you could just give one “super-duper practicer” award for someone who stands out that has either improved their practice dedication, culminating in improved performance over the year as per your discretion. This would be more subjective rather than giving an award for simply filling in practice charts regardless of end-product!

  • I love these ideas, Amy! My home-based studio is pretty small, and it isn’t financially feasible for to do trophies and ribbons. (Although I wish I could!) That being said, I give out “baseball card awards”. Each student gets a baseball card sheet, which can hold 9 of my awards, 18 if I use both sides. Students can earn awards for completing units of rhythm, sight-reading or memorizing a certain number pieces, being a member of the One-Minute Club, completing their book, etc. I keep track of awards on spreadsheet in the back of their personal student file. I love the idea of having a plaque in your studio for students that have been with you 8 years or longer! So far, I’m at 5 years in this town too, so that will be a few years away still, but definitely something to think about!

    • Hey Kelly! I think you’ll agree, any way you do it, the important thing is that students have a chance to challenge themselves and have opportunities for awards whether it’s baseball cards (great idea by the way!) or trophies. It does get pricey that’s for sure! 🙁 I also do the One-Minute Club – I completely forgot to add that to my list of announcements at the awards ceremony! I announce the overall winner and in the past I’ve awarded them a $20 gift card although I’m rethinking that…I’m going to have to edit my post now! Ha! Thanks for the reminder.

  • Thanks for sharing this info, Amy! I also didn’t realize that MTNA had awards available for studio use. I’ve got all of it downloaded now…we will see if I remember about it!

  • I really love the idea of recognizing our students with tiered awards as they do in the sports world. I especially love the “prestige” of including the Legacy Award – with the plaque displayed of all inductees in the studio. A worthy goal! I’m all ready to present this to my students in the fall. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas…

  • Amy, this is just fantastic !! It’s my 10th year teaching in San Antonio and I will be so happy to add couple of my students to the Legacy plaque. Thx for such well thought out blog and so helpful to us. Bravo !!

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