Audio engineering alumnus tunes out noise to listen to heart

Jul 3, 2023Courtney Morris
Matt Teel, San Jacinto College Audio Engineering Alumnus

Matt Teel’s challenge was having too many passions.

Growing up in mountainous Northern California, Teel would stretch out under the stars, pondering the universe. This fascination translated to how everyday things worked too. As a teen, he tinkered with the audio equipment inside his stepdad’s home recording studio, curious how sound is recorded and manipulated.

With a buffet of options after high school, he sampled this and that.

“I had a broad range of interests that caused me to bounce around,” he said.

Today, 20 years later, Teel has gone from bouncing around to blending his passions into a multifaceted career.

Facing the unknown

While his science passion persisted, Teel dealt with constant change growing up. He navigated his parents’ divorce, multiple moves, and 13 different schools before high school. He struggled deciding what to do next after finally landing in Houston with his dad.

In 2004, Teel started at San Jacinto College — the first in his family to attend college. Although the first semester challenged him, honors classes turned things around his second semester. He began making friends and even went on an honors camping retreat.

“It gave me the catalyst to believe in myself,” he said.

While on this retreat, Teel met professional rapper Byron Holman, who sparked his interest in music recording.

DIY recording

San Jacinto College alumnus Matt Teel in audio recording studio
Matt Teel works in his audio recording studio.
Taking a break from San Jac, Teel followed Holman’s suggestions to set up his own studio. He bought all the essential equipment and taught himself through industry books and magazines.

Soon he was recording poetry rap sessions and friends jamming on their instruments, and others began asking him how much he charged.

Teel worked odd jobs to supplement the income from his studio work. A year later, he met two artists in San Jac’s audio engineering program who suggested he try it too.

Refining studio skills

Teel was serious from the moment he signed up for Audio Engineering 1. Not only did he learn about acoustics, physics, recording, mixing, and special effects processing, but he also learned about his own limitations and relational skills.

“He was communicative, easygoing, and personable — all important qualities for an audio engineer,” Angela Beyer, audio engineering professor, said.

His professors’ passion helped him engage and consume all he could. Although he almost finished an audio engineering degree, Teel graduated in 2016 with a general studies associate degree, planning to transfer someday.

Reimagining future

After San Jac, Teel entered a slump. Although continuing to record, he struggled with depression and ADD.

While working at a machine shop, Teel spent his downtime reading cosmology and math books. Audio engineering had sparked a deeper interest in the math and theory behind acoustics and digital signal processing.

Suddenly, something clicked. Teel went from railing at himself to realizing his purpose.

“In five years,” he told his dad, “I’m going to be five years sober and have a physics degree.”

This dream demanded intense focus, and his family encouraged and supported him along the way. Five years later, Teel had not only stopped drinking but also graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physics from University of Houston-Clear Lake. In 2022, he earned his master’s.

Tuning out everything but heart

Teel sums up his journey in four steps: explore, fail, pick yourself up, repeat. Although hyperfocus on education meant sacrificing a social life and traditional career for years, now he aims for stability while blending two fields he’s passionate about.

Recently he worked for a startup company on a project combining acoustics, physics, and programming. Besides continuing to record, he plans to design studio technology someday, devoting his diverse background to more audio and non-audio applications.

Teel took almost two decades to tune out external noise and listen to his heart, but the journey was worth it.

“If you find what makes you light up, you might feel selfish pursuing it,” he said. “But you’ll develop something you can share with others later.”

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