Studio Awards 

Policies and Procedures

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.

Here is a basic MS Word template for you to get started!

 

 

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.

Click here to download a PDF with more details on my award system including links to all the pins and trophies.

As of May 2019, my award system has been changed and updated. To see new and updated award system, view the post:

 

Event Participation

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.

 

One-Minute Club

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?

 

15 Comments

  • 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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