Students lined up on stage for a fun picture with their awards.

Awards are one way Vance Music students are rewarded for their hard work, and a great way to motivate students. As teachers, we strive to develop skilled, creative, well-rounded, critical, and confident individuals through music education. Short-term goals like awards and recitals help students learn to practice regularly and envision what is possible on their instrument. It also gives students an easy way to congratulate and support fellow students, which helps to foster a community of students all eager to spur one another on to good works.

The Scholar’s Award

A Vance Music student holding their Scholar's Award for checking off notecards.

This distinction is usually the first Vance Music award students receive. It’s also the most important first achievement in a music student’s journey, as it serves to give students basic reading skills in music.

To qualify, students must read, name, and play 20 note cards assigned by their Vance Music teacher in 30 seconds or less. The cards assigned by the teacher contain the primary notes for the student’s instrument.

Achieving a high standard of music literacy from the very beginning of a music student’s journey paves the way to success. The easier reading is for a student, the faster they are able to progress.

Students who qualify for the Scholar’s award receive a certificate of achievement at the following month’s recital.

The Composer Challenge

The Composer Challenge award is available for all students to complete, regardless of level. Students follow the link on the Vance Music home page or go to the specific award page for the challenge to discover the new composer of the month.

To complete the Composer Challenge, students complete research to find the composer’s full name, birth date, death date, and titles of three famous works. They then memorize this information and recite it to their teacher during their lesson.

By working toward this award, students broaden their familiarity with various genres, eras, and composers. Students can also learn how composers fit into the general history they have learned in school. When a student encounters a piece by a familiar composer, they can use their knowledge of the composer to better understand how the piece was meant to be performed.

Each month, students who complete the composer challenge are entered in a drawing for a free lesson. This free lesson is presented as a gift certificate to the winner at the following recital.

A picture of a student winning the Composer Challenge award.

Student of the Month

A student receiving their Student of the Month award from Vance Music
Photo Credit: Candace Bolinger

Student of the Month is presented to the student who has accomplished the most during the month. Vance Music teachers keep track of every item students check off during their lessons. At the end of the month, teachers compare students’ work and confer to determine which student should win. A student’s progress on scales, arpeggios, exercises, songs, theory, and history, are all considered, as well as any additional achievements.

To be considered for Student of the Month, students must be caught up on lessons and payments for the month. The student must perform in two consecutive recitals: the recital the award is given for, and the recital the award is presented. The Scholar’s Award is a prerequisite for the Student of the Month award.

The Student of the Month award inspires students to work hard each month, and to consistently improve. In addition, it also prepares students for music competitions where only one winner is chosen. Students learn to strive for excellence and value their own hard work regardless of competitors.

Student of the Month winners receive a composer bust and certificate to commemorate their achievement.

Practice Awards

A student receiving their Practice Award at the annual Christmas recital.
Photo Credit: Kelsey Talbott

Vance Music practice awards were developed in response to Hilary Hahn’s 100 days of practice, as reported by Strings Magazine. Hahn has received multiple Grammy awards and is the recipient of the prestigious $100,000 Avery Fisher Prize (see NY Times), but still found it useful to challenge herself to complete 100 days of consecutive practice. The Vance Music practice award is given to students who complete 6 days of practice for 10 consecutive weeks.

Students working toward this award sign a pledge with a parent or accountability partner. The amount of daily practice time must be approved by the teacher, with a minimum of 30 minutes per day. Students record their work weekly by filling out a form and turning in audio recordings of their practice.

100 days of practice is an incredible achievement, but can be overwhelming for the average student. Vance Music’s practice award helps students develop the habit of practicing consistently, while still maintaining a healthy life balance. The practice plan covers 40 weeks of the year, in four 10-week quarters. Students may make up six missed or incomplete practice days during each quarter.

For the first completed quarter during a year, students receive a certificate and a personalized keychain with a ribbon. Students earn additional certificates and ribbons for each quarter they complete. Students who complete all four quarters receive a personalized plaque and two free lessons. Additional prizes are received by students who complete all four quarters at higher practice amount tiers.

The ASTA Bag Competition

The ASTA Bag Competition takes place between two monthly recitals each spring, and is designed to reward students for practicing scales and arpeggios. By mastering five scales or arpeggios, students earn one entry into the competition. Students may enter the competition multiple times.

Students working for the ASTA Bag Competition must perform their scales/arpeggios by memory while saying note names aloud (unless the teacher determines that the instrument or tempo prohibits this), and with the metronome at the assigned tempo, with a minimum tempo of one note per second. Students must also memorize one song. Additional rules apply; students wishing to qualify for this award should talk to their teacher.

Scales and arpeggios form the basis for all music, and practicing them is an important way to develop accuracy, strength, speed, and flexibility. However, many students find practicing scales and arpeggios tedious. This competition pushes students to practice these important techniques, and to realize how feasible it is to check off several within one month.

Each entry into the bag competition earns prizes, plus an opportunity to win the ASTA bag itself. The bag is from a music conference, and signed by a number of conference presenters and performers. Past bag signers have included Grammy winners such as Joshua Bell and the Quartet San Francisco. A prize is also given to the student who checked off the most scales/arpeggios during the competition. The bag and other prizes are presented at the recital that marks the close of the competition.

A student receiving their signed ASTA Bag as the main award at the conclusion of the competition
Photo courtesy of the Chan family

Perfect Attendance Awards

Multiple students with certificates and composer busts receiving the perfect attendance awards.
Photo Credit: Kelsey Talbott

Perfect Attendance awards are presented to students who perform in all twelve recitals for the year. Since students must have their teacher’s permission to participate in each monthly recital, students who qualify for this award display a work ethic that deserves recognition. This award highlights the student’s dedication to practicing and performing consistently throughout an entire year.

All Perfect Attendance awards are presented at Vance Music Christmas recitals. Recipients receive a composer bust and certificate to commemorate their achievement. Certificates reflect three echelons: those who perform every month, those who perform every month by memory or as part of an ensemble, and those who perform every month by memory.

Students who win perfect attendance awards for five consecutive years also receive special additional recognition. Silver Ribbon Awards are given to students who perform for five consecutive years; Gold Ribbon Awards are given to students who perform for five consecutive years by memory. Both Silver Ribbon and Gold Ribbon award winners are presented with a certificate and a personalized grand piano music box.

Student of the Year Awards

A student, supported by her family, receiving the prestigious Student of the Year award.
Photo Credit: Denise Hole

The Student of the Year awards are Vance Music’s most prestigious awards. These awards are presented in three age categories: Primary Student of the Year is awarded to a student in fifth grade or lower, Intermediate Student of the Year is awarded to a student in 6th-8th grade, and Senior Student of the Year is awarded to a student in 9th grade or higher.

To receive student of the year, students must first qualify to be a nominee. Nominee requirements are designed to reward students who practice consistently and are working to be well-rounded musicians. All nominees receive both a certificate and a composer bust to commemorate their exceptional level of achievement. To be nominated for Student of the Year, students must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Perform in 9 of 12 recitals, including the Christmas recital
  • Memorize 9 pieces, 6 of which must be performed in recital
  • Master 12 scales & 12 arpeggios
  • Master 25 pages of exercises
  • Complete 6 rhythm pages
  • Complete 1 history level
  • Complete 4 composer fact sheets
  • Complete 3 theory pages
  • Complete 20 harmonic analyzations
  • Pass a timed theory test with 100% accuracy. This test includes oral, written, and performed elements.
  • Additional rules apply; students wishing to qualify for this award should talk to their teacher.
Student of the Year nominees holding their awards.
Photo Credit: Kelsey Talbott

Vance Music teachers keep track of every item students check off during their lessons. At the end of the year, teachers compare student nominees’ work and confer to determine which student should win the award. These awards are presented with great grandeur at the Vance Music Christmas recital. Students in the primary and intermediate age categories receive certificates and personalized plaques. The Senior Student of the Year receives a certificate and a personalized grand piano music box.