This past spring, I had the opportunity to present the John Philip Sousa and Louis Armstrong awards for the first time. They have a long history and carry a lot of weight, but I think it is important to recognize other student achievements throughout the year. One other award I give to high school students is the "pen" award.
The award doesn't actually have a name, so the students and I refer to it by the prize each winner receives--a Pilot Varsity fountain pen. While they are advertised as being disposable, it's not too hard to refill them, and so I include a lifetime supply of ink (as long as the winners come back to me to get a refill). I make the award at the end of each quarter to one or two deserving students based on their contributions to the ensemble and department. I have awarded pens for
- taking lessons and working really hard to get better
- participating in and making significant contributions to the musical
- giving up lunch time regularly to practice!
- tutoring younger students
- rehearsing and conducting a band
Students have appreciated receiving the pens, and quite a few have made comments about wanting to win one. It's not an expensive award (usually around $2/pen), but it is a great reward for the students who win one and a motivator for those who have not won yet.