David Teie comes from three generations of professional musicians. He set aside his early interests in composition and voice to concentrate on the cello. He studied with Stephen Kates and Berl Senofsky at the Peabody Conservatory, where he received his bachelor's and master's degrees, as well as the Wertheimer Award for cellists. He also studied with William Pleeth in London on a Fulbright scholarship, as well as studying composition with John Corigliano.
Teie joined the National Symphony Orchestra in 1984, eventually playing 15 concerto performances with them (12 with Maestro Rostropovich conducting), including performances on two U.S. tours and the first of the symphony's American Residencies. He spent the 1999–2000 season as acting principal cellist of the San Francisco Symphony.
Teie composed the string music for a CD by the rock group Echobrain, founded by former Metallica bassist, Jason Newsted. He was commissioned by Leonard Slatkin and the National Symphony to write one of the Hechinger encores, Fuga Eroica, which received its premiere with the National Symphony in February 2004, and in November 2005 premiered his Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra with the Anchorage Symphony.
In 2005–6, David Teie developed and outlined the first comprehensive theory that attempts to explain the cognitive processes involved in our appreciation of music. Working with Charles T. Snowdon at the University of Wisconsin, he studied the effect of David's species-specific music on cotton-topped tamarind monkeys, resulting in the first controlled study that demonstrated significant and appropriate responses to music from any non-human species. His music for monkeys was named the #1 idea of 2009 by the New York Times. David recently received a patent on the process and apparatus for composing species-specific music.
Teie is currently working with Jagmeet Kanwal at Georgetown University to research whether combination sensitivity is involved in emotional response to music, as his theory predicts. He serves on the faculties of George Mason University and the University of Maryland College Park.