“Outstanding Achievement in Piano” Award

Most sports offer ways that students can earn medals, ribbons and trophies. Until now, the only way my piano students could earn traditional awards like these was to perform for a judge at a festival. Some students love the thrill of performing and do well under pressure, so this works great for them.  However, there are a number of students who are very talented, practice diligently, and make great strides in their lessons who don’t wish to participate in adjudicated events such as these. My philosophy is that piano students shouldn’t have to perform for a judge at a festival to be recognized for their hard work and progress if they don’t want to. My updated incentive program provides a way for ALL of my students to be recognized for their progress and achievements in piano.

Here’s How It Works

All of my students are eligible to earn the “Outstanding Achievement in Piano” trophy, whether or not they take part in festivals. All students earn “Progress Points” towards redeeming this trophy when they complete individualized goals in their private lessons. Progress points are the green paper tokens that are stored in students’ binders or practice journals. Here are some ways students can earn progress points:

Home Practice and Completing Music Theory Assignments

The main way students earn progress points is by practicing at home and writing down their practice minutes on their assignment sheet. They must also complete any assigned music theory homework. A point is awarded for each week that the student meets his or her practice goal AND completes any assigned music theory homework. For example, if a student meets her individualized practice goal for one week (let’s say 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) AND completes her theory homework, she receives 1 progress point.

Progress points are not awarded if the music theory assignment is not completed. A point is still awarded even if the theory assignment has errors. Any errors can be addressed during lesson time but it is important for the student to try to do their theory work at home. Practice minutes must be written down in order to receive a point and I may check in with the parents to see if they can verify their child’s practice time. Younger students will need help remembering to practice as well as writing down their practice minutes.

Metronome Challenges

If a student completes a metronome challenge, she receives 1 or 2 progress points depending on the difficulty of the challenge. Metronome challenges are assigned as needed when a student has difficulty with the rhythms in their music.

Scales and Chord Exercises

Completing sets of scales or chord exercises are worth 3-5 points. Scales and chord exercises are assigned as is appropriate for the student’s age and level.

I have some small prizes like bookmarks, stickers and erasers that students can redeem with 1-3 progress points to reinforce small victories. The ultimate goal though, is to collect 30 progress points. For most students, this might take about one year (9-12 months). Once a student collects 30 points, they earn their “Outstanding Achievement in Piano” award! They will be presented with a trophy in their lesson and take it home that day.


Why is Goal Setting such an important part of piano lessons in my studio? It is because I wish to develop the qualities of self-efficacy and confidence in my students. Here’s a brief quote from Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly, boldface is mine:

“…hope (substitute self-efficacy, confidence, agency, or empowerment) happens when:

  • We have the ability to set realistic goals (I know where I want to go).
  • We are able to figure out how to achieve those goals, including the ability to stay flexible and develop alternative routes (I know how to get there, I’m persistent, and I can tolerate disappointment and try again).
  • We believe in ourselves (I can do this!).”

Setting and meeting goals teaches students to feel that their efforts make a difference and that they can be part of a process to make positive change that affects their lives. This can benefit them in every aspect of their lives as children and as they grow into adulthood.

Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions regarding our incentive program or need tips on helping your child establish a regular practice routine at home.