Studio Awards Update (Including Some Awesome Trophies!)

Just as continuing education is important no matter how seasoned the teacher is, so is revisiting and refreshing areas of our studios such as websites, policies, and awards every few years.

If it’s been more than 5 years since you’ve considered whether or not you could make some improvements to your year-end awards program, now is probably a good time!

For me, it’s been eight years, and I was starting to notice a few things I wasn’t happy with, so that was my clue it was time.

Today, I’ll be sharing some of my changes, which include updating the progression of awards students receive for their years of study as part of the MTNA Music Study Award program, as well as the physical trophies. I changed trophy companies, and I am very happy with the results.

I’ll also share a few details on four new awards I started giving out, including a “Master Musician” award, a “Legacy” award, and most mastered and memory pieces.

But first, if you haven’t read the original post (Studio Awards: Policies and Procedures), you might want to do that first, as it includes more in-depth details on the types of awards I give (including more details on the MTNA Music Study Award), and how to track and keep it organized from year to year.


New Award Progressions & Trophy Company

Up until now, all students in my studio received a certificate for their years of study along with an additional item, such as a pin or trophy, every two years. It looked something like this:

Year 1 – Certificate
Year 2 – Certificate + Pin ($1.75 – $3.00 from various sources)
Year 3 – Certificate
Year 4 – Certificate + Pin ($1.75 – $3.00 from various sources)
Year 5 – Certificate
Year 6 – Certificate + 5″ Trophy ($9.95 from Music in Motion)
Year 7 – Certificate
Year 8 – Certificate + 7″ Trophy ($12.95 from Music in Motion)

It started bugging me that the year 6 trophies were kind of expensive (especially when I started having more students getting them), and for the price, they were kind of cheap-feeling trophies.

It also bothered me that students who were in lessons 5 or 7 years were only receiving a certificate – it just didn’t feel right. So, once it dawned on me that it was my own system and I could do what I wanted, I changed it!

Here’s my new award system:

Year 1 – Certificate (see original post for the link to certificates)
Year 2 – Certificate

Year 3 – Certificate + Pin
Year 4 – Certificate + Pin

Year 5 – Certificate + 5″ Trophy ($6.99 from Crown Awards)
Year 6 – Certificate + 6″ Trophy ($3.99 from Crown Awards)

Year 7 – Certificate + 8″ Trophy ($7.99 from Crown Awards)
Year 8 – Certificate + 5″x7″ Legacy Plaque ($11.99 from Crown Awards)

Year 9 – Certificate + 10″ Trophy ($10.99 from Crown Awards)
Year 10 – Certificate + 11″ Trophy ($11.59 from Crown Awards)
Year 11 – Certificate + 12″ Trophy ($11.99 from Crown Awards)

P.S. I originally had the year 5 trophy as the year 6 but when I discovered that even though it was cheaper, the gold star with the piano in the middle was pretty cool looking in person and it’s also a little taller so I switched them.

A lot of teachers had been raving in Facebook groups about Crown Awards. After checking them out, I could see why!

They have some really cool-looking piano trophies and their prices are much more reasonable. The bases are made out of sturdy marble and thus look and feel a lot nicer.


Where to Purchase the Pins

I’m still using the same pins as before but I found a couple of new ones from Crown as well (they’re the last two). I try to keep a variety on hand each year so students can choose and not have to get the same one three years in a row.

#1 – Piano Recognition Pin ($1.75)

#2 – Pewter Cross/Clef Lapel Pin ($3.00)

#3 – Silver Clef / Note Lapel Pin ($2.50)

#4 – Gold Piano Tack Pin ($2.50)

#5 – Staff Lapel Pin ($2.50)

#6 – Silver Music Note Lapel Pin ($2.00)

#7 – Large Eighth Note Pin Gold ($2.50)

#8 – Music Pin ($1.99)

#9 – Piano Music Pin ($1.49)


Master Musician Award

A couple of years ago I added in a subjective award called the “Master Musician Award.”

I’ve been trying to tweak and perfect my description for this award over the years. I’m not sure I’m quite there, but here is how I present it:

The Master Musician award is the culmination of everything a good teacher strives for – students who have become self-learners. My goal as a teacher is to develop students who can think musically. The student who is given this award may or may not be the most advanced student or the student who has studied the longest but is someone who can demonstrate a depth of musical understanding and the ability to make their own inferences and decisions in the music they are studying.

Besides musical knowledge and skill, this student should also display personal characteristics including dedication, determination, self-motivation, personal responsibility, and perseverance.

I then try to say something that is specific to the student receiving it that year. Here’s what I said about this year’s winner:

The student that will be receiving the award this year, in all the years that I’ve given her lessons, not once have I ever had to have a heart-to-heart about putting in more practice and effort. She comes to her lessons prepared, engages with me in the lesson, has starting using her skills for events outside the studio, such as playing in her church’s worship band and is able to listen to and make musical judgements in both her own and other students playing. She’s not afraid to speak up in group class and share thoughts and ideas, and, not that it has any weight to the award being given, but I’m sure anyone who has been in group class with her can agree, she’s really fun to play games with!

As soon as I saw this beautiful 3D Grand Piano Resin Sculpture ($8.99), I knew it was perfect for this award. It’s nice and heavy and unique compared to the other shiny gold trophies that are given for years of study.

Their name is also placed on a plaque that is displayed in the studio just like the one you see below for the Legacy Award.


Legacy Award

Two or three years ago, I announced that I was starting a Legacy Award but since it would be given to students who had studied with me for 8 years (that is, it does not include time with another teacher), we still had a few years before anyone would get it. I was so excited that this was the first year that happened!

If you want to read more background behind the “why” for the Legacy Award check out the Varsity Musician’s Playbook: Part 2 “Studio Locker Room”.


24-Plate Portrait Frame Plaque for Legacy Award displayed in the studio

I highly recommend getting the 24-plate rather than the 12-plate. If all my students in the next three years make it to 8 years, then I will fill up 10 more spots.

5″ x 7″ Legacy Plaque from Crown Awards

These two lovely ladies started in lessons together in a group class in 2011 and today here they are all grown up and the first to be inducted!

P.S. With my new system in place, I wanted to make sure anyone didn’t lose out on a trophy they should have gotten and these two are the only two that affected. Besides their 8-year legacy plaque, I gave them both their 7-year trophy (In my previous system they only received a certificate last year). I know this was probably not necessary but I wanted to do it and it wasn’t a big deal since it was only two students who were affected by the change.


Mastered and Memory Pieces

Every year in our studio binder, we track the number of pieces students learn and also the number of pieces they memorize. I’ve never done much with it other than keep track from year to year so students can see how much they’ve accomplished in the past 12 months.

This year I thought it would be nice to start recognizing the student who mastered and memorized the most pieces.

I was careful to emphasize to families before I handed out this award, that learning and memorizing a lot of pieces is not the main goal, of course, but I thought it was nice to just recognize those students because that’s still a lot of work!

Plus, this is an award that will more often than not go to a younger student since their pieces are a lot shorter and they can learn more. It’s a good way to highlight beginner students.

This year, the same gal won both awards. 48 pieces mastered and 13 pieces memorized!


I just made a couple of certificates in Canva. She was so surprised!


Final Tip

The last tip I would like to share in regards to awards is to purchase one of those awesome black card tables that you can fold in half from Wal-Mart. It’s perfect for displaying all the awards during the recital and easy to transport!



  • Dear Amy,
    I appreciate your wonder work and all the sharing that you do! It is sure helpful.

    I would love to begin this program in my studio, but I have a couple of questions…..

    1. If you have a transfer student, do you count the years they studied
    elsewhere in your calculations?
    2. If you were to start implementing this after your studio has been
    running awhile, would you play catch up with all the students and
    their trophies or just start in the current year? I would have several
    on the legacy award at this point.

    Thank you for you kind input. It is greatly appreciated. Shirlee

    Thank you!

    • Hi, Shirlee, wow, these are GREAT questions! Here’s how I would handle each scenario:

      1. Transfer students receive their “Music Study” award based on how long they’ve been taking lessons – it’s about commitment – not just the time with you. That being said, the “Legacy Award” IS about time with you. So, if you were to use that particular award in your studio and you had a transfer student that has been taking for 8 years (or however long you set your legacy award for), they would not get the legacy award – just Music Study award for 8 years.

      2. I would not play catch up – but I think that also could depend on how many students you have. If you have a really small studio and it won’t cost you a lot of money to do do so, then certainly you could consider it. I think if you simply announce it’s a new program and from here on out, this is what students will begin receiving, I would be surprised if anyone complained that you didn’t give them 3 trophies as “back pay”.

      Let me know if you have any more questions!

  • Thank you Amy. I was going back and forth about all of this. I do have too large of a studio which made me almost not pick up on this idea, but I have quite a few who have been faithful, but struggle so would never receive any other kind of recognition which made your wonderful ideas such an inspiration. This way my struggling student will finally get a shout out because there is no way he can learn as many pieces, memorize or participate in any contests. Thank you for you ideas and encouragement. Blessings on your continued teaching!!!! Shirlee

  • I like your award ideas. I’ve usually done a medal for each student but they are more expensive now and my husband doesn’t like that everyone gets one. Do you hear a lot of your students like getting the pins? Do they actually wear them or what do they do with them?

    • That’s a great question and I will say I can completely understand where he’s coming from. I know some teachers just do a certificate for first-year students and then trophies for students with high year marks such as the legacy award (after x amount of years) or seniors. I’ve never really had anyone comment regarding the pins either way. It always just seemed like a nice little easy and cheap item to give them. I have no idea what they do with them. Pin them to their jackets? I have honestly wondered the same thing myself. If I ever re-do my awards I may consider moving to something like this. I don’t want to change my process too frequently – to me once you change it, it’s good to stick with for at least 5 years. A good year for change would be a year you have a large turn-around of graduating students and starting new beginners.

      • Thank you so much for your reply. I ordered the trophy you use for the 5-year award students and decided to order a medal for the 4-year award students.

        • Great! The wonderful thing about all of this you can design your program and awards in whatever way feels best to you!

  • I have awards for Most Improved, Memorable Musical Performance (could just be in a lesson, not necessarily a public performance and several students may get this), Highest Theory Score and Student of the Year. I also recognize graduating seniors and I hand out certificates for anyone who participated in exams. All of those get pins, student of the year gets a trophy and a gift and graduating students get music I think they’ll enjoy and a handwritten card from me sharing some memories of our time together.

  • Hi AMY! I just found this post – scrolling back through your blog. I started Legacy Awards after listening to Christina Whitlock’s information on it last year. However, I do like implementing more trophies and I will look at doing this. I did “catch-up” last year, as I have a small studio (and I did not do any trophies – just pins, certificates and gift cards) – but I may add the trophies this year (but not go back and do catch-up on them). I am also going back through previous students this summer, and I am going to highlight some each year as “former legacy students” even though I did not have this program then – with their photo and dates and maybe a short post of “where they are now” – something like that. I have given medals out for years and a certificate at recital for every student. I give the Legacy awards in addition. The medals are so a part of our studio vibe, I feel I will continue them. Thanks for ALL the great ideas! You got me going for sure! Thanks!

    • Great, Marian! This is awesome to hear. It sounds like you definitely have your gears going. So glad you have found these resources helpful. Good luck!

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