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California Music Merit Program


The California Music Merit Program (CMMP) was created in 2008 by Sandy Kipp Iles. CMMP is an achievement oriented program with annual evaluations and is open to students of all ages and levels. It is perfect for students who want to work hard within a structured program with a deadline to achieve specific requirements and musical abilities. To participate in CMMP you must study privately with Sandy or with a private instructor who is familiar with CMMP.

Goals of the California
Music Merit Program

  • To encourage students to practice and strive for musical excellence.

  • To give students the opportunity to receive comments from an objective professional instructor and performer.

  • To give students an annual assessment of their abilities, preparation and improvement.

  • To provide students with a level-oriented, step by step program encouraging them to challenge themselves to a higher level of achievement.

Annual Evaluations

Evaluations are held annually in February.

The evaluations include four areas of preparation:

1. Repertoire
2. Technique
3. Sightreading
4. Written Exam


1. Repertoire

Students prepare two pieces chosen by their instructor. Each piece must represent a different musical era. One of the pieces must be listed at the student’s level in the CMMP Syllabus. If the piece has an accompaniment, it must be performed with an accompanist.

2. Technique

Each student receives a list of Technical Requirements for their level. These requirements must be performed from memory to be considered for a Superior Rating. The Technique may be performed with music to receive an Excellent or other appropriate rating. Technique is not cumulative. If a student has been entered at the Preparatory Level, they must prepare a minimum of 50% of the listed requirements from Level 1. Their instructor will choose which technique items they want their student to focus on.

3. Sightreading

During the evaluation, students will be given approximately 30 seconds to look at the Sightreading excerpt. Students will play the excerpt two times with comments for suggestions in between each performance. The evaluator will average the grades of the two performances for the final rating. The evaluator may also discuss the performance and work with the student on the excerpt.

4. Written Exam

There are two areas of study on the Written Exam: Theory and Vocabulary.

a) Theory - Students need to be able to write out the Technique from their CMMP level (scales, arpeggios, and thirds). It is suggested, but not required, that instructors choose a theory book for their students to enhance their knowledge of music theory.

b) Vocabulary - CMMP Vocab is cumulative. Students are tested on the Vocabulary from their CMMP level, in addition to each preceding level. Once a student has enrolled in CMMP, they will receive a set of flashcards to aid their preparation for the Vocabulary section of the Exam. Students should be able to define the terms and also identify a term by a given definition.


Each area of evaluation is assessed with the following graded system:






Plus (+) and Minus (-) may be added to any of the above grades.

Superior Award

Any student who receives a Superior Rating in all 4 areas of preparation (Repertoire, Technique, Sightreading and Written Exam) will receive a Superior Award.

Note: Technique must be memorized to be eligible for this honor.


There are ten levels in CMMP, plus a Preparatory Level. The level of the student is determined by the instructor. Students may repeat or skip a level at the discretion of their instructor.

“I took lessons with Sandy Kipp Iles for almost four years and I can confidently say that it was one of the most transformative experiences in my life. Our family lived 45 minutes from Sandy, but the commute was more than worth it, as both my family and I could clearly tell the influence that Sandy had on my character. My parents jokingly referred to my lessons with her as an investment, and it was one they are still happy to have made.”

Snow Pinxue Li, M.D. Candidate, USF Morsani College of Medicine Class of 2024

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