Building a program with a lasting legacy

DBHS music director Steve Acciani has mentored thousands of young musicians to success.

Steve Acciani led the DBHS Symphony Orchestra in 2014 during the Ford Drive 4UR School Event, when the music program was named the National Grammy Signature School in 2016.

Photo Courtesy of ZIMBIO

Steve Acciani led the DBHS Symphony Orchestra in 2014 during the Ford Drive 4UR School Event, when the music program was named the National Grammy Signature School in 2016.

Cindy Liu, Asst. News Editor

It’s 6:30 a.m. and while many students are still asleep, it’s the start of a 15-hour workday for band director Steve Acciani, whose involvement on campus ranges from orchestra to color guard.

Acciani’s career at Diamond Bar High School began in 1988 as a football, basketball and baseball coach. Alongside working in DBHS’s sports programs, Acciani also taught as the band director for South Pointe Middle School. After 18 years of coaching, Acciani spent time as a student teacher on campus and eventually went on to become the DBHS band director.

With 11 years of experience as the DBHS band director, Acciani’s impact can be seen not only in the school’s award-winning music programs but also in the students he helps mentor to success.

“I want them to be great, well rounded, empathetic people… and learn how to be part of something bigger than what they are,” Acciani said. “I think it’s our obligation to teach this next generation how important art is—not just for performances or competitions but for the actual enrichment of the human spirit.”

Acciani decided to switch paths and become a music teacher after being inspired by his parents.

“Both my parents were teachers. My mom was an English teacher and my dad was a high school band director. I saw how much influence they had on kids’ lives,” Acciani said. “[Their students] used to come back and thank my parents for giving them the tools they needed to succeed in life.”

Under his direction, DBHS’s music program was named the 2014 National Grammy Signature School, a title awarded to schools with exemplary music education. He has also guided the school’s various music programs into achievements like playing at Carnegie Hall and placing first at the National Orchestra Cup and the Arcadia Band Review.

“Having such incredibly talented students has allowed me to get to do some things that no high school band director would get to do,” Acciani said. “With the Tchaikovskys we’ve gotten to play, or the Maslankas— all these great pieces of music I’ve been able to be part of because of the great students that we have.”

Although Acciani initially studied physics at UCLA after graduating from Antelope Valley High School in 1982, he ultimately decided to pursue his passion for music and transferred to study music at UC Fullerton. He then went on to earn his master’s degree in school administration at Azusa Pacific University.

As an avid musician, Acciani started playing the clarinet in sixth grade and eventually went on to study with Los Angeles Philharmonic’s principal clarinet player. Additionally, he has played tuba in UCLA’s marching band and also participated in recordings and played at the Montreux Jazz Festival as a saxophone player.

While Acciani is passionate about his work at DBHS and building connections with his students, the paperwork and workload he manages can sometimes be overwhelming.

“Not only are we trying to teach, we’re trying to manage a [performing arts] program with a budget of close to a million dollars with 800 students and at any one time, 25 different performing groups going on,” Acciani said.

During his time at DBHS, his biggest impact can be seen in the lives of students he helped on their path to success. From musicians accepted to Julliard and featured on national news outlets to orchestra students accepted to Ivy League schools, Acciani has seen it all.

“It’s probably the most important part of my job,” Acciani said. “When I see a student like Jeremy Davis [featured on national public radio] to Matthew Ho getting an early admission to Harvard, and knowing that I might’ve been a small part in that, it totally keeps me working hard because they are incredible kids and I don’t want to let them down.”