How do I get started entering my students in the PPTA STAR Evaluation program?

First, email the STAR Chair (currently Marsha Goulding, to be added to the STAR Teachers email list. Second, purchase an AIM Piano Syllabus, Latest Edition (2014), at Now you're well on your way to becoming a STAR Teacher!

What is the AIM Syllabus?

AIM stands for Achievement in Music Program, and is name of the evaluation program developed by the Illinois State Music Teacher's Association (ISMTA). The STAR program now uses the 2014 AIM Syllabus to establish its requirements in theory, technique and repertoire for levels 1 through 12. More specifically, the AIM Syllabus is a manual with over 350 pages. It not only serves as the STAR Program's definitive source for requirements, but also contains actual exams at each level to give teachers and students tools to help prepare for the evaluations. To purchase an AIM Syllabus, go to

What can teachers and students expect from the STAR program and evaluations?

There are twelve levels in the program, with Level 1 divided into three parts, Levels 1A, 1B, and 1C. Each level has theory along with technique and performance requirements that follow a logical progression from early elementary through advanced.

The STAR evaluations contain two exams:
1) THEORY: includes Theory, Aural Skills, Sightreading and Harmonization; and 2) PERFORMANCE: includes Technique and Performance. In any given year, a student may take either the theory or performance exam, or both exams. The registration fee is the same whether the student chooses to take one or both exams. However, to be eligible for the STAR recital, a student must take both theory and performance exams. For performance exams, students prepare pieces from the syllabus list of repertoire and approved collections or equivalent level pieces. Students perform: 2 pieces for Levels 1-3. 3 pieces for Levels 4-9. 4 pieces for Levels 10-12. Students generally prepare one level each year and demonstrate their competency at the annual evaluations, currently held at PYCO School of Music, Wexford, 1st Sunday in May. Students are not in competition with other students, but are evaluated individually on their accomplishments.

Are there resources other than the AIM syllabus that will help me prepare my students for the STAR evaluations?

Yes! ISMTA members have created several resources to help prepare students to meet the AIM syllabus requirements used for STAR evaluations. Most are found on the ISMTA website at AIM Piano Workbooks (Highly recommended) Tutorial workbooks written by Karen Rogers for levels 2 through 12 are available as hard copies. These workbooks cover all parts of the AIM exams. If there is a question or discrepancy, the ISMTA Syllabus is regarded as being correct. Available at AIM Workbook Answer Key, Levels 10-11-12 This publication for teachers gives the answers for the Level 10-11-12 workbooks. It is provided as a reference for teachers and as a timesaver in checking over student answers in their workbooks. Available at Music Study Sheets These workbooks, located at, can stand alone or be used along with AIM theory preparation. They offer many drill activities in sight reading, written and aural activities. The workbooks, organized according to AIM levels, are available as downloads along with answer sheets and mp3 listening examples. The creator is ISMTA member, LeAnn Halvorson.

What are the registration fees and where do I send them?


  • Levels 1A, 1B & 1C: $13
  • Levels 2-12 Level # + $12 (i.e., level 2 = $14)
NON-MEMBER FEES: Member fees plus $25 teacher entrance fee plus $10 additional per each student at each level. The registration fee is the same whether or not both theory and performance exams are taken. Send Registration and T-Shirt Fees by March 15 to: Cindy Karell, PPTA Treasurer, 100 Cerasi Drive, PH 15, West Mifflin, PA 15122

Do students have to take both the theory and performance exams the same year?

No. Students make take either test or both tests. However, the registration fee is the same whether or not both tests are taken.

Do students have to take every level to progress to the next?

No. At the discretion of their teachers, students may skip levels.

Is there a difference between AIM and STAR?

The AIM program is the evaluation program developed by the Illinois State Music Teachers Association (ISMTA). The STAR program is the evaluation program of the Pittsburgh Piano Teachers Association (PPTA). The PPTA uses the AIM syllabus to establish its own evaluation requirements for the STAR program. There are only a few differences in the requirements of STAR versus AIM. Find them by clicking here

Does a teacher have to be a PPTA member to enter students in the STAR evaluations?

No. However, non-member teachers must pay a $25 entrance fee, and student fees are $10 extra per student at each level. Volunteering and judging requirements are the same as members.

Frequently Asked Questions: