Certificate of Merit® Frequently Asked Questions

Dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in music education, the Music Teachers’ Association of California® (MTAC) is comprised of nearly 5,000 music teachers and more than 60 self- governing  Branches across California that perpetuate quality music and music education into the world.  MTAC believes in the power of music to enhance people’s lives and aims to fuel a love and passion for music through artistic growth and achievement programs – like Certificate of Merit®.

Below are some Frequently Asked Questions for  MTAC’s flagship evaluation program, Certificate of Merit®.

What is Certificate of Merit®?
Initiated in 1933 by the Music Teachers’ Association of California®, Certificate of Merit® provides a standardized music curriculum for musical excellence in performance, technique, ear training, sight reading/singing and music theory. Through a standardized curriculum, Certificate of Merit provides a uniform pathway for music student growth at each level.

The Certificate of Merit program is available for piano, violin, cello, viola, flute, French horn, oboe, clarinet, saxophone, bassoon, euphonium horn, trombone, trumpet, voice, harp and guitar.

How can a student register for Certificate of Merit®?
Only professional music teachers who are current members of MTAC may register students in Certificate of Merit. If you are the parent of a student wishing to participate, consult with your
child’s music teacher for information regarding registration and preparation.

What are the Certificate of Merit levels and who decides what level a student is currently at?
Each instrument has its own 10-level or 11-level syllabus, detailing a specific set of requirements. Music teachers determine the appropriate level for each student, then work with students on level- appropriate selected literature, technique elements, sight reading, theory and ear training.

Where do students get the Certificate of Merit® Syllabi and other publications to prepare for Certificate of Merit evaluations?
All Certificate of Merit® Syllabi and other testing preparation materials are published by the Music Teachers’ Association of California® (MTAC) and are available for purchase exclusively through the MTAC Online Store.

How is my student evaluated on their progression through Certificate of Merit Levels?
Certificate of Merit students participate in an annual Evaluation, conducted online between February and March, and receive a written musical performance assessment. Students also complete an online written theory exam which includes an ear training component. Upon successful completion of the Evaluation, students receive an official MTAC Certificate of Merit Certificate for their level.

Online evaluations ensure the process is equitable and transparent while empowering students to perform their very best, with the freedom to record and submit what they (and their teacher) believe to be their best performance.

Can my student choose to do their Evaluation in person?
The Music Teachers’ Association of California supports and values live performance opportunities and shares the desire felt by parents, students and teachers to return to in-person learning and social activities. However, Certificate of Merit is not designed to be a performance or social opportunity but rather an evaluation of a student’s ability to learn and execute a specific set of skills. Evaluations conducted online are equitable, transparent and allow students to perform their best.

MTAC supports other live performance opportunities, including performances at its annual MTAC State Convention Recitals and encourages Branches and teachers to provide live performance and social opportunities through student performance practicums and studio recitals.

Why are Certificate of Merit® evaluations conducted online versus in-person?
In an effort to democratize the evaluation process and level the playing field for every student in the program, MTAC moved Certificate of Merit evaluations completely online effective the 2020-2021 season, providing a consistent experience to all students, regardless of their Branch or location across California.

The online evaluation process is more equitable, consistent and transparent. In addition, the online format empowers students to perform their best. By moving Certificate of Merit evaluations online, students have the freedom to record and submit what they (and their teacher) believe to be their best performance.

Is Certificate of Merit® open to any music students?
In order to participate in Certificate of Merit® students must be age 5 or older by October 31 and be under the instruction of an MTAC member music teacher in good standing.

The aim of the Music Teachers’ Association of California has always been to be as inclusive and equitable as possible. Online evaluations democratize the evaluation process, leveling the playing field for every student by standardizing evaluations that provide a consistent experience to all students, regardless of their location.

What are “Path B” Certificate of Merit Evaluations?
As of June 2012, MTAC has closed down “Path B” Certificate of Merit Evaluations. All CM Evaluations are operated through MTAC’s affiliate Branches only. MTAC does not condone the issuance of “Path B” Certificates, or teachers or studios purporting to offer “Path B.”  If you receive materials indicating or promoting Certificate of Merit “Path B” Evaluations, please report it to us by contacting the MTAC State Office.

What are the deadlines to enroll in Certificate of Merit?
MTAC members in good standing (who have paid their membership dues by July 31st) may enroll students for Certificate of Merit during the month of October.

Parents/students need to submit a payment by November 5 to complete their enrollment.

Teachers will have until January 15 to make edits to the student’s applications.

When I register my student for Certificate of Merit why does the registration fee show up on my bank or credit card statement as “Music Teachers’ Association of California”?
The Music Teachers’ Association of California® (MTAC), incorporated in 1897, is the sponsoring association behind Certificate of Merit and all charges associated with this program, and any others sponsored by MTAC, will appear on your payment statement as “Music Teachers’ Association of California.”