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The Ultimate Guide to Choosing an Incentive Programme

Incentives and challenges are a great way to keep your students engaged and motivated! Whether you want to increase practice time, improve technical skills, or expand repertoire, there’s sure to be the perfect fit for your studio. Before you get started here are a few things to consider when choosing an incentive programme.

choosing an incentive programme

What Will the Focus Be?

There are lots of different areas that you can target when it come to choosing an incentive programme. Here are a few suggestions:

Practice Time

Encouraging students to spend more time practicing is a feature of most incentive programmes. If you want something simple but effective then try an incentive that has increasing practice time as the main focus.

Try: Practice Charts from Susan Paradis

Practice Goals

Although practice quantity is important, it’s practice quality that can have even more impact for your students. Incentives that focus on practice goals and achievements might be just what you’re looking for!

Try: Become a Musical Superhero from Pianosaurus Rex

Mastering Pieces

Why do students take piano lessons? To learn to play! If you’re keen to expand your students’ repertoire then try an incentive that looks at learning lots of new pieces.

Try: 30 or 40 Piece Challenge from Compose Create

Scales & Technical Work

Scales, chords, technique, sight reading, ear training… If there’s one (or more) areas that you’d really like to work on with your students, then choosing an incentive programme that focuses on a particular skill or technique can be a great motivation to improve.

Try: Challenge Board from Colourful Keys

All of the Above

If you want to keep your students motivated to improve in all areas of their music education, then try an incentive programme that does it all! A comprehensive programme that recognises practice time, practice goals, mastering pieces and scales, and improvement of technical work makes tracking progress easy and fun!

Try: Musical Monster Mania from Pianosaurus Rex

How Long Will the Incentive Last?

Do you want your next incentive programme to last a few weeks, a few months, or all year? Before you make a decision, ask yourself these questions:

What events are happening in your studio this year?
Get out your calendar and take a look at the recitals, exams, group lessons, holiday events, and extra activities you have scheduled for the year. Do you have a couple of particularly busy months? Avoid taking on an incentive programme during this time (unless you thrive on chaos!). Do you want your students to be well prepared for recitals? Have a practice incentive in the lead-up to recital time. Is there a time of year your students tend to lack motivation? Find a fun challenge you know will get them excited.

Would you rather focus on a long term or short term challenge?
I really like the idea of a year-long incentive programme with a theme (Sheryl Welles and Jennifer Foxx do this really well). But… I’ve realised that I need a lot more variety, and keeping the necessary level of excitement going that long is a struggle! And if I can’t stay motivated I can’t expect my students to either. Instead I like to have an incentive that lasts one term (which is ten weeks).

Think about what sort of time frame would work for you, and then find, modify, or create an incentive programme that fits.

Superhero Incentive

Will You Have a Theme?

Maybe it’s the influence of my event management background, but I love a good theme! If you’re the same, then there are so many fun ideas to choose from. Here are a few themed incentive programmes that are worth a look:

How Will You Track Progress?

Using a chart is an effective and easy method of keeping track of goals. Checking off squares is very satisfying and can be done by colouring, stickers, or using a punch card. These practice punch cards from The Imaginative Music Studio look like a great option.

If you’d rather have something physical to show progress then sometimes simple really is best! Leila Viss at 88 Piano Keys shares her tips on using Music Money as an incentive.

Some students thrice on competition and like to track their progress against others. Having a noticeboard or other visual display of achievements will be great motivation for these students, If you’re looking for some inspiration then check out this Spring Rhythm Cup Incentive at Sara’s Music Studio.

Will You Reward Individual or Group Achievement?

Most incentive programmes are designed to recognise individual achievement, with students working towards goals on their own. This can work really well for many students, but there are other options to explore.

One approach that works well in a large studio or classroom is to have teams of students working together. Inspired by Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Matthew from Stidham Music has teams of students sorted into Musical Houses. Students earn (or lose!) points for their House, with different rewards given to the leading team at certain times throughout the year.

Another more collaborative option is for all the students in your studio to work together to achieve a particular goal. Megan at Pianissimo had a Lego Challenge for her students, who earned Lego bricks every week to contribute to a collective structure. When the structure was large enough everyone got a treat!

What Rewards Will Students Earn?

From the simple to the more elaborate, here are a few ideas for different rewards and prizes that will get your students excited about achieving their goals:

  • Badge
  • Candy
  • Certificate
  • Chocolate
  • Clue to a musical mystery
  • Dollar store item
  • Gift card
  • Ice cream
  • Invitation to a studio party
  • Medal
  • Name added to the Hall of Fame
  • New challenge to complete
  • New piece to learn
  • Next installment of an adventure story
  • Stationery
  • Stickers
  • …or just the satisfaction of completing their goals and improving their skills!
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