Grammys: Los Angeles County teacher named finalist for Grammy music educator award

Steven Acciani, right, Diamond Bar High School music director, addresses band members with Marie Sato, instrumental music teacher, and Casey Bindl, marching/drum major instructor. Acciani is among the 10 finalists for The Recording Academy/Grammy Foundation music educator award. Courtesy of Steven Acciani

Diamond Bar High School's instrumental music director Steven Acciani made the short list announced Friday for the Grammy's annual music educator award.

The Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation hand out the honor to recognize teachers who contribute significantly to music education and show a commitment to sustaining music instruction in their schools.

“I think it’s a great indication that, that we’re doing the right things for the kids here,” Acciani said. "Mostly I think what we're tying to do is set up a program where we're producing intelligent consumers of the arts."

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Acciani credits a vast team of educators and community members for helping with the school's successful music program. He said part of the secret has been incorporating instruction and guidance from professional musicians into the students' learning experiences. 

"I think I'm more a ringmaster than a teacher some of the time," he said. He is the only finalist from California. 

Acciani said budgeting for the arts is a challenge — but what school officials don't have in district dollars they make up for in other ways.

The district provides classroom space and allows recent USC graduates to help with instruction. Most of the program's funding comes from the community as well as from money that the students earn playing professional gigs organized through the school, he said. 

"Our community has kind of rallied around the program," he said.

Acciani and the other nine finalists each receive a $1,000 honorarium. Their schools get a matching amount. The award winner, to be announced Feb. 7, receives $10,000. 

The finalists were chosen from a field of more than 7,000 nominations from 50 states.