The Music Teachers’ Association of California® (MTAC) sponsors the music study and evaluation program Certificate of Merit® (CM). Initiated in 1933, 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, trombone, trumpet, voice, harp and guitar.

Consult with your child’s MTAC teacher for more information regarding enrollment and preparation.

The Certificate of Merit® program is exclusively open to MTAC Teachers. To learn more about our membership benefits, click here. To look for an MTAC Teacher for yourself or your child, you can use our Find a Teacher tool.

Evaluations & Awards

  • Students participate in an annual Evaluation between mid-February and March and receive a musical assessment.
  • Students complete a written theory exam which includes an ear training component.
  • Students may choose to take their Evaluation at a Regional Testing Facility or online through the MTAC Testing Portal. Please speak to your MTAC Teacher about pricing for both options.
  • Upon successful completion of the Evaluation, students receive an official MTAC CM Certificate for their level.
  • Eligible High School students who complete the Advanced level of their instrument may move onto the Panel and Young Artist Guild Auditions. Learn more about this program here.
  • Senior medallions are awarded to eligible high school seniors.
  • All CM students who meet the State Honors award requirements will receive a special seal on their certificate.
  • Students demonstrating exceptional skill during their Evaluation may be invited to perform live at annual MTAC State Convention Recitals.

CM Levels

  • Each instrument has its own 10-level or 11-level syllabus, detailing a specific set of requirements. Teachers will decide the appropriate level for each student.
  • Students and teachers work together on level-appropriate selected repertoire, technique elements, sight reading, theory, and ear training.
  • Eligible High School students who pass the Advanced levels of their instrument can move onto the competitive Panel track, where students can compete for the coveted Panel awards and the inclusion in the Young Artist Guild. Learn more about this program here.
  • All Certificate of Merit® Syllabi and supplemental testing materials are published by the Music Teachers’ Association of California® and are available for purchase exclusively through the MTAC State Office.


  • Students must be age 5 or older by September 30 and added to their teacher’s MTAC Online Roster to participate.
  • Teachers create applications for their students in September and complete the student’s repertoire list by December 15.
  • Parents or Adult Students must submit their application fee by October 5.
  • Application fees are non-refundable and non-transferable.

Teacher Information

  • MTAC teachers who have paid their membership dues by July 31 may enroll their students in Certificate of Merit®.
  • For new applicants and former members wishing to reinstate, all required membership and reinstatement applications and documents, along with correct payment, must be submitted to the MTAC State Office by July 31st, in order to participate in Certificate of Merit®. Please note that MTAC cannot be responsible for lost or late submissions.

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CM Frequently Asked Questions

If you have any specific questions regarding the Certificate of Merit program, please contact us.

If you are interested in becoming a CM Evaluator, you can apply here.