Like many independent music teachers, my end-of-year recital includes awards. Not only are these awards meant to recognize achievements, but they also serve to celebrate student’s ongoing commitment to piano study 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 as 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.”
What to Include in Your Manual
As you’re putting together your own Awards Policies and Procedures Manual, there are several things you should include:
1 – A list of the awards you give annually including any requirements.
Later in this post, I’ll address specific awards, but as far as “requirements” goes, here’s an example of what I mean:
“Students must have a minimum of 25 lessons to receive a 1-year award. Those with less than 25 lessons receive a participation certificate.”
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).
3 – Notes and reminders regarding engraving or anything else you may want to remember from year to year.
I wanted to make sure the wording and formatting of my engraving were the same from year to year so I made notes regarding the exact way I worded the trophy engraving. I also took a screenshot from the Music in Motion website on the engraving instructions so I didn’t have to search for those instructions every year.
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.
Types of Awards
There are several different awards I give at the recital. All of those listed here are completely objective.
MTNA Music Study Award
All students receive a certificate for years of study.
In the “members-only” section of the MTNA (Music Teachers National Association) website, you can get access to several different award programs including this “Music Study Award.”
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.
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. (Just note that if you print on a certificate paper that already has a thick-design border, you will need to reduce the print size to 75% (ish) to fit it inside the border.)
Note: It can be a bit tricky to find these awards on the MTNA website, so I’ve included a screenshot (updated as of 4/2019). You will need to be logged in using your member information in order to these pages.
In my current award system, every two years, students received a “bonus” item along with their certificate for years of study. At years two and four, they get a small lapel pin and at years six, eight, and ten, they receive a trophy (progressively larger each year).
Included in this award system will also be a legacy award for students who study with me for eight years. This award was first described in the Varsity Musician’s Playbook Series. At the time of this post, I’m only five years into my full-time studio so this award has yet to be given!
Most of the pins and all the trophies I currently purchase are ordered through Music in Motion.
As of May 2019, my award system has been changed and updated. To see new and updated award system, view the post:
Any students who participate 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 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.
The next two awards are not ones that I do every year, but I think they’re both great programs and are fun to include even if just as a special event one year.
Clavier’s Piano Explorer Practice Challenge
Piano Explorer Magazine has a Practice Challenge that students can complete, working toward 100, 200, or 300 days practice (or more). Students who achieve this get their name 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.
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 performance 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, I have not offered it in a while.
Each year all students are required to participate in the One-Minute Club Note-Naming Challenge. The winner with the fastest time is announced at the recital and receives a $10 gift card to a store/restaurant of their choice.
What kind of awards do you give? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments!
4/21/2020 – I gave my awards a bit of an overhaul. To check out my new program, visit this post:
3/31/2021 – If you’re just now starting an awards program, do you wonder if you should play “catch up?”
Did you enjoy this post?
Consider subscribing to the Piano Pantry email list. You’ll get my once-a-month “Secret Letter” which includes what’s been going on in my studio that month, new posts on the blog, books I’m reading, favorite Instagram posts, and other fun things like that.