Studio Awards: Policies and Procedures

Do you give out awards to your students for various achievements from the past year?

Would you like to do more awards but aren’t really sure what to do besides recognizing student achievements in festivals and competitions?

Do you struggle to implement or track something like this with any kind of consistency?

This post is going to look at a few types of awards that can be integrated into your studio’s awards program, as well as how to track everything by creating a simple “policies and procedures manual” of your own.


Types of Awards

There are a few different types of awards I give annually at the recital.

  1. MTNA Music Study Award (years of study)
  2. Event Participation
  3. One-Minute Club


MTNA Music Study Award

Awards don’t always have to be about celebrating achievements; they can also serve as a time to celebrate a student’s ongoing commitment to music study, which is why I love MTNA’s Music Study Award.

Please note that you have to be a member of MTNA to have access to this award.

They have a free certificate available for download signed by the current MTNA President and the Executive Director and C.E.O.

The PDF is editable so you can easily type in your student’s name and print it.

Don’t worry, it doesn’t print the purple color on your forms!

For the first few years, I printed them on heavy white cardstock but recently have been using heavy certificate paper so they look a little nicer.

Important points to note:

  • It can be a bit tricky to find these awards on the MTNA website, so I’ve included a screenshot (updated as of 4/2021). You will need to be logged in using your member information in order to access these pages.

[Click on the photo to enlarge]


Event Participation

Any students who participated in events outside the studio throughout the year are given their ribbons and certificates at the recital.

For example, if I have any students participate in our state’s Achievement in Music Festival in March, they are given their certificate and medal on the day of the event, but the theory ribbon is distributed to teachers after the event.

It’s nice to have something physical to hand to students when recognizing their participation in the event during the recital award time.


One-Minute Club

Each year all students are required to participate in the One-Minute Club Note-Naming Challenge. The winner of each level is given a $5 gift card to Walmart and the overall winner (the fastest time for level 5) is given a $15 gift card. These are all announced at the recital.


Other Awards

A couple of other programs I’ve used in the past that are good to include in your end-of-year awards time:

Clavier’s Piano Explorer Practice Challenge

Piano Explorer Magazine has a Practice Challenge that students can complete, working toward 100, 200, or 300 days of practice (or more). Students who achieve this get their names listed in the magazine and teachers can print a special certificate available on their website.

MTNA Music Achievement Award Program

The Music Achievement Award Program is another one offered to members of MTNA and can be found in the same area of the Members Only site as the Music Study Award shown above.

Students have to complete several outside musical tasks such as writing a report on a composer, composing pieces, and more. They have a huge array of things to choose from and MTNA has an implementation pack to help you get started.

Students who completed this program received a small plaque at the recital that says “Music Achievement Award,” (purchased from Music in Motion). I also took those students to a professional performances such as a concert with the Philharmonic. Due to the expense of the awards that I give for this program, I do charge a small fee for students who enroll.

I offered this (optional) opportunity to my students for several years but in my effort to reduce activities and simplify, have not offered it in a while.


Design A Policies And Procedures Manual

Once you determine the types of awards you want to incorporate, set aside some time to formally write up the program (for your own reference) so it’s concrete and consistent from year to year.

Here are several items to consider including in the manual:

1 – A list of the awards you give annually including any requirements.

Here’s mine as an example:

MTNA Music Study Award (awarded for total years in piano lessons)
Participation Award (less than 25 lessons)

Year 1 – Certificate (25 lessons minimum)*
Year 2 – Certificate + Lapel Pin
Year 3 – Certificate
Year 4 – Certificate + Lapel Pin
Year 5 – Certificate
Year 6 – Certificate + 5” Trophy
Year 7 – Certificate
Year 8 – Certificate + 7” Trophy + Legacy Inductee**
Year 9 – Certificate
Year 10 – Certificate + 11 ½” Trophy

*If preschool students participate in recital they receive a participation award and/or the certificate from Wunderkeys for completion.

**Students who study at Studio 88 for 8 years will be given the legacy award and their names placed on a plaque in the studio.


2 – Links to the exact item(s) that you purchase for each award.

For consistency, give the same awards every year. This is also a way to build excitement for students. Imagine a 2-year student seeing a student who has been studying for 6 or 8 years receive a large trophy.

I recently witnessed a 5-year student commenting to another student that they’re staying in lessons at least until they receive the “Legacy Award” (8 years) if not longer (see below for details on the legacy award).

Here’s what mine looks like:


3 – Notes and reminders regarding engraving or anything else you may want to remember from year to year.

It was important to me that the wording and formatting of my engraving were the same from year to year so I keep a few notes regarding those kinds of details.

For example, do have the names engraved in all caps or just uppercase the first letter? Do you put the year the award was received on the plaque or trophy or X number of years of study, or a date such as 2015-2020, etc.?


4 – A list of students by name and their years of study.

Keeping this list from year to year will be a big time saver. Each year I simply copy and paste the listing onto a fresh sheet, shift everyone’s names down a year, and remove those who are no longer students. This process takes about 10 minutes!

If I have any transfer students who will be receiving an award for the first time in my studio, I make sure I confirm with the parents exactly how long they took lessons prior to coming to me and ensure the parent is in agreement with the years of study I will be awarding their student.



4/21/202 – To see more specifics on the trophies I give as well as a list of my awards updates, check out this post:


3/31/2021 – If you’re just now starting an awards program, do you wonder if you should play “catch up?”



  • 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 !!

  • Hi…. usually I di a year end recital sand the students get trophies, and highest achiever awards. However since the virus I am teaching on line and loving it….my students do too….but how or what kind of awards can I give them on line????? Any suggestions????

    • Hi, Frances. This is a great question! Have you considered still giving out the physical awards, but doing non-contact deliveries to the student’s doorsteps? This is what I’m doing. It’s possible this may not even be doable, but it’s just a thought! You can then ask everyone to take a photo of themselves with their award to send to you to share on your studio Facebook page, etc. You could possibly consider sending them a gift card (approximate cost of the trophy they would have received) to a local ice cream shop or one of their favorite online stores. iTunes, Amazon?

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