Jimmy Austin headshot

Jimmy Austin

Yiddish program

Jimmy Austin is a working trombonist and educator from Pullman, WA, currently living in Seattle. Jimmy inherited his name and his first trombone from his paternal grandfather, who performed traditional jazz with a band of professors at Southern Illinois University. Some of Jimmy’s earliest memories of music include falling asleep to Louis Armstrong recordings, listening to his mom playing Joplin and Bach on her ancient piano, and singing traditional melodies at the miniscule gatherings of the Jewish Community of the Palouse.

Jimmy played piano and cello before picking up the trombone at the age of twelve. After graduating high school, Jimmy moved to Bellingham, WA, to study at Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies (part of Western Washington University), creating a self-designed degree in jazz with emphases in education and social justice. While at WWU, Jimmy organized jazz jam sessions and taught one of the university jazz combos, while performing with a variety of local bands. In 2014, Jimmy graduated and started performing with the Americana and blues influenced band, Hot Damn Scandal, which he still performs with today. Jimmy first met Joe Seamons when performing with Hot Damn Scandal at the Hillman City Collaboratory.

Shortly after moving to Seattle in 2017, Jimmy began playing with the klezmer brass band, Shpilkis. This music created a place where being Jewish and being a musician were no longer opposing aspects of life. He found himself more and more drawn into the Yiddish musical community, attending festivals and creating a self-directed path of study for himself during the covid-19 pandemic. After being very loosely involved in The Rhapsody Project for a couple of years, he began developing their Klezmer and Yiddish Heritage programs in early 2021.

Jimmy performs with an intense and distinctive style, with a love of collaboration. He sees music as a way to renew, rebuild, and celebrate healthy communities with strong roots. When teaching, he tries to tailor to each student’s experience and interests while sharing tools to help them participate in music beyond school settings. He studies music with the intention of honoring the communities it comes from. Jimmy hopes to help build a more anti-oppressive, de-colonial musical community in Seattle.

In addition to Hot Damn Scandal and Shpilkis, Jimmy performs with Battlestar Kalakala (a massive funk band) of West Seattle, and occasionally with a variety of other groups between Portland, OR, and Vancouver, BC. He also performs with the vaudevillian style play, Goodnight Absalom, by Nat Alaster; and Sara Porkalob’s award-winning musical, Dragon Lady.