The American mezzo-soprano and music pedagogue, Debra Austin, is a graduate of Bradley University where she received a Bachelor of Music Education. A grand-prize winner of the Bel Canto Competition, she traveled to Italy, where she made her concert debuts in both Desenzano and Bussetto, and performed in Graz, Austria, while attending the American Institute of Musical Studies. She was an award winner in the Sudler Oratorio Competition, NATS Central Region Auditions and American Choral Foundation Competition and is a Margaret Hillis Fellowship Fund recipient. She taught public school for eight years at the kindergarten through high school levels. She then attended Northwestern University where she earned her Master in Vocal Performance degree and a Certificate in Vocal Performance.
Debra Austin's warm sound and compelling stage presence are demonstrated in the diverse roles she has successfully performed. In opera, she has portrayed Hansel in Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Suzuki in Puccini's Madame Butterfly with Chicago Opera Theater and Chamber Opera Chicago; the title role in Offenbach's La Perichole with Light Opera Works and Fort Wayne Philharmonic; Madame Flora in Menotti's The Medium with Muddy River Opera; Isabella in Rossini's The Italian Girl in Algiers; Prince Orlofsky in J. Strauss' Die Fledermaus with Pamiro Opera, Opera Company Mid-Michigan, and DuPage Opera Theater; the Page in R. Straus' Salome with Opera Grand Rapids; La Ciesca in Puccini's Gianni Schicchi with Opera Illinois: and Kate in Gershwin's Girl Crazy at the Grant Park Music Festival. Other engagements include Mother Marie in Francis Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites, Cherubino in W.A. Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, Mother in Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors, La Abuela in de Falla's La Vie Breve, Zita in Puccini's Gianni Schicchi, and La Principessa in his Suor Angelica.
Debra Austin made her Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut in J.S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) under Sir Georg Solti, followed by an Allied Arts concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Morgan. In concert, she has appeared with Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Boise Philharmonic, Grant Park Music Festival, Fort Wayne Philharmonic, Illinois Philharmonic, Downers Grove Oratorio, Elgin Symphony Orchestra, and others. She has sung with the Peoria Bach Festival since its inception performing as soloist in J.S. Bach's St. John Passion (BWV 245) and in various J.S. Bach's cantatas.
Debra Austin is in her sixth year of teaching voice (Instructional Assistant Professor) at Illinois State University (ISU). She has also taught voice at Eureka College. In the fall of 2008 she performed Libby Larson's Sifting through the Ruins, a piece for mezzo-soprano, viola, and piano based on texts taken from sites around New York after 9/11, with ISU Music faculty Katherine Lewis and Paul Borg. In the spring of 2009, she sang in the world premiere of William Cutter's Heretical Songs with the Illinois State University Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dr. Glenn Block. She maintains a private voice studio in her home while teaching at ISU, performing and enjoying her husband and son.