Diego Acosta is a Grammy-winning music producer and alumnus of Colegio Menor. He is the first in a series of films celebrating alumni success from across the Nord Anglia Family. Hear Diego bring to life his journey from Ecuador to global acclaim.
My name is Diego Acosta. I am an audio engineer, production manager, event producer, college professor, and I graduated from Colegio Menor in 1998. I am an audio engineer in multiple fields, meaning I record, mix, master and do postproduction of audio. I also broadcast audio and am a production manager for shows, but we are recording this in the middle of a pandemic where concerts and show business has been one of the most affected industries. But thankfully I've been a guy of many hats so the other ones have reinforced me during this time. Besides that I am a college professor, teaching classes online for the Miami International University.
I started my education in a different school and by 11th grade, I had transferred to Colegio Menor. It had opened just one year before but was already very well recommended to me by friends that were already part of it. And to me, the transition was phenomenal because of all the opportunities that they gave me.
I made the call to move and once my parents saw what Colegio Menor was, who was involved and all the support, they loved it too. I think that the most important element of all was that they saw me happy and focused on something that was clearly my career.
The times at Colegio Menor were fantastic, lots of great memories come to mind. First and foremost is probably the atmosphere that we had. It was just lots of laughs and joy, but at the same time, it was a school that prepared me to be where I am right now. It was the values that were taught to us, to be authentic, be good people, and be a great influence on the world and the community. It was like a big, fantastic family of classmates, faculty and administration. That was one of the biggest things that I got out of it - the gathering of people under the same beautiful campus.
One of the important things about this community was the appreciation and dedication that faculty gave to the students. We were very much appreciated, and they cared for us. It was not just their job, there was a sense of inspiration for them to see us succeed.
I had many great classes and have great memories of them. All the art classes were really interesting to me especially history of art where Brian was our teacher… I think that is one of the beautiful things that I do remember is each class was not only the subject itself, but who was behind it - psychology with Santiago, mathematics with Davide, it's funny that all of these memories are coming back to me in this moment! Faculty played a magnificent role in Colegio Menor.
If I would have to describe the community of Colegio Menor, I will say it was a family - that is what was so special. It was led by example in the sense that we respected our instructors because of how human they were and how fun the classes were. It was not about being told to do something but more so because we were interested on it. With many of those instructors and professors I still have some kind of a contact, which says a lot about the community we created there.
I remember my drum teacher just before we were about to perform a concert and he said, "Be sure that you are confident when you're about to perform, because you have to be twice as prepared to be able to perform well under pressure." And that's something that's still in my mind. So anytime that I'm about to do something that may require some level of stress, I've got to make sure that I'm not over prepared, but prepared to the point that that task could be easily managed at that moment of stress.
The school was fantastic for opening up the whole liberal arts that at the time were not much considered. It was a big influence on me, and I am super grateful to the school and all the people that were there at the time. My favourite classes at Colegio Menor were, without a doubt, the drumming and the big band classes because I was so into it! It was a luxury being able to play drums. I think we had four or five hours a week and we were extremely lucky to do so. Being allowed to play the drum set regularly was great for me but not so much my parents or my neighbourhood!
At that time, I was also a DJ, having started when I was 12, so I was playing at parties, anything social, but also for school multiple times at all kinds of events, including La Fiesta de Colegio. And that's how I became an audio engineer because of the combination of playing the drums and being a DJ. I found the technology; I found the arts and I was always very attracted to big consoles!
The school allowed me to dream on something that, at the time, was definitely not an option anywhere else. And Colegio Menor not only supported me but motivated me to do it, which was fantastic. It was always open-minded and there was always a chance to bring new ideas. I remember we would do things that were coming from the students to the administration and if they thought it was reasonable, we would do it. They supported our creativity.
There was definitely a desire to show us the world. In economics we used international and local markets and we had a model UN in the school where a group of students would travel to meet other schools’ representatives in competitions. The faculty was a real mixture between Ecuadorians and Americans which served us well for the future and was very important at the school.
There was also a sense of moral values behind the school that were taught regularly. There was a focus on being prepared and on time, a sense of responsibility. There was a focus on teaching us not only our subjects but what was going to be important for us in life - being a prepared, well-rounded human being. I believe the school did well on that because not only how I feel today but my classmates are doing great too.
Now, as a professor myself, I see more of the values of life and I think the school did well teaching us that: the importance of living in a society, what was going to be important for us to know, to share, to respect, to do, to be. They did a really good job teaching us how to be a well prepared professional and more so, a nice human being.
Colegio Menor played a very important role in my path to college because it prepared me not only academically, but also with all the career services that you need. There was a great educational foundation and preparation for exams, but also in the sense of language, the classes, the mentality of the school, the preparation of applications, recommendation letters - so all grounds were covered where I needed it. The careers tutors played a major role. And ultimately, I achieved my goal of getting into Berklee College of Music in Boston, which is how I would measure this success!
The day after graduation, I moved to Boston to start college. We graduated on Saturday July 4th and early morning on the 5th I travelled to Boston where I started college. It was a very fast transition, yet I have the best memories of that day – it was fantastic! I believe that school did well exposing us to things and change that ultimately are part of life. Instead of trying to box us they were always showing us the world.
With my classmates it was a combination going to school and being prepared, but at the same time, it was lots of joy and fun. I remember wanting to go to school. It was not something that had happened to me in the past.
I have friends that I am still very close to from Colegio Menor - a whole lot of successful people that I'm lucky to call friends. It's not only my personal classmates, the school has a profile of successful people in many industries. Many fantastic lawyers, another runs the most luxurious hotel in the Galapagos, one of my classmates lives in New York and has worked for the consulate there for years.
I also had my two other brothers coming with me: Bernardo who is two years younger than me, who now represents the country in Washington for the MI, transferred one year after myself and my brother who is 13 years younger than me. I have had, lots of family in Colegio Menor. If I do the math, I probably have something about 12 close cousins that have gone to Colegio Menor. That's how much we like it!
I've been super lucky with my parents. They've been so kind and always given me what was fair to guide my path. My parents fave guidance to me even though there was no one in our family that had a similar background of what I do now, and yet they never questioned it and gave me the green light to pursue this craziness.
In Berklee, to be accepted to the engineering program you first had to apply to school and once you were in the school you had to apply to the engineering programme. I was among some of the lucky ones that were super dedicated and got through a physical application and an interview. Now unfortunately lots of people pursue audio production because they have a perception of what they believe it is - creating beats for artists - which it is not. I feel like my role as a professor, more than ever, is not so much on the academics but more so on the human being, being able to get my students to focus on themselves, to really pay attention to what they're doing, where their money is going. If this really is for them.
As a professor I teach the things that I believe are most important: being a professional. I believe finishing school should leave you in a ‘sponge mode’, meaning that you're ready to absorb whatever your employer wants out of you. So you have to have the basic knowledge, plus the desire to really be there to absorb. One thing is teaching students the subjects, the consoles, the software, the mixing techniques, and all of the technical things they will require. But more important is the human part and I'm sure that my instructors thought the same when we were in school.
In audio production, it is very common that if you're going to do music production, and you're going to start working in a studio, you pretty much go back to be a runner, and a lot of people do not have it in them to say, "I want this so much that I'm okay to be humbled." I always tell graduated students, "You're going to start there. You have to be prepared to be there for at least one to two years." It's common that I'll get a call asking, "when is this going to change?" – they’ve graduated, they're full of hunger, they want to conquer the world. I say, "Patience, patience is the key to get you to where you ultimately want to be."
I'm known in school for my proficiency exam which is 100% hands-on, 10 minutes on the clock and they have to do a list of things. It's funny because I actually learned that from college. It's not anything new. The first time I was tested like that I was stressed but I learned, and that's ultimately why I've kept it. In any career you're expected to perform in a certain manner, in a certain time.
It was all about making good. Good to us, good to the world, good to the community. School focussed on that; the events that we had, the way that we were, what was important, what was not important. Colegio Menor taught us what was important, what was going to be important in life – to be kind. School was kind to us we were kind to school, and I believe now we're kind to the world. Colegio Menor wanted us to make an impact in the world.