'Old soul' hits high notes at Abington and beyond

Abington muscian

Teddy Austin majors in Integrative Arts at Penn State Abington.

Credit: Penn State

ABINGTON, Pa. — From a Baptist church in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia to famous venues in Washington, D.C., and Europe, a Penn State Abington senior shares his musical talents with the world. 

But luckily for his Abington audience, there is ample opportunity to hear Teddy Austin sing and play the trumpet on campus, too. Austin, an integrative arts major with a focus on music performance, plays lead trumpet in the college’s jazz ensemble and jazz combo, and he is a vocalist both in the campus choir and campus chamber singers.   

Assistant Teaching Professor of Integrative Arts Rob Haffley said that despite Austin’s stellar credentials, the senior is a very humble person. 

"When one hears his music, you experience that of an old soul. It's as if you're hearing generations of musicians in one person,” Haffley said. “When I hear him play jazz trumpet, I can hear Louis Armstrong, Cat Anderson, Dizzy Gillespie and Arturo Sandoval.” 

“His musical experience as a vocalist is the same way; lifetimes of experience rolled up into one person,” Haffley continued.

Abington musician

Teddy Austin.

Credit: Penn State

Austin’s interest in music started early. His mother tells him that he was able to identify a recording as Handel’s "Messiah" when he was very young. 

“Handel has a specific way of composing music so I knew it was 'Messiah,'” he said with a small smile.

His parents not only nurtured his talents, but they also led by example. His dad plays jazz piano and tuba, and his mom sang with jazz greats Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach and Miles Davis. 

“I remember watching Ken Burns’ 'Jazz' miniseries with my dad when I was 2 or 3. We would sit and watch together,” Austin said.

These experiences and uncounted hours of lessons, practices and performances have taken Austin throughout the country and the world, playing at many notable venues. The summer after high school, he attended a creative arts program at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia. He also has performed with the Philadelphia Jazz Orchestra, which is known as something of an all-star band for high school and college performers in the region.    

He has played at the respected Chris’ Jazz Café in Philadelphia, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and twice jetted off to the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, and toured Italy as well. 

Currently, he teaches hand chimes and hand bells at his church while also serving on the music committee. He sings at the Second Baptist Church of Germantown and sings with another group outside of Penn State Abington.

“I have no idea how many hours I play each week, but it’s a lot,” he said, describing himself as fortunate.

This holiday season Austin was hired as an operatic tenor soloist for a performance of Handel's "Messiah" at St. George-St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.

“Music is very important in our society,” he said. “It provides expression and communication. People should support the arts.” 

Haffley, the Abington faculty who convinced Austin to transfer to Abington after completing community college, looks forward to seeing where Austin's talents take him.

“Teddy is still creating his story, but I believe his future to be that of a world-class musician, and he already has a great start,” Haffley said.

About Penn State Abington

Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st century public higher education within a world-class research university. With about 3,700 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 21 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer honors program, NCAA Division III athletics and more.