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Born in Boston, Massachusetts to classical musicians, Mathes showed interest and skill in music at a very early age. In his youth, Mathes studied under John Mehegan, a jazz pianist who was a Juilliard faculty member at that time, and later he left Berklee College of Music to study orchestration and counterpoint, privately, under Myron Fink. By high school, Mathes' talents were already well known in his community, and he soon began working regularly as a professional writer and performer in the clubs of nearby New York City. After touring with Chuck Mangione in his early 20's, Mathes began to focus on writing and arranging in Nashville, and soon was writing songs for Bonnie Raitt, Kathy Mattea, Aaron Neville, Wynonna Judd, Faith Hill, Oleta Adams, Alabama, and Randy Travis. Mathes' arrangements are found on everything from The Three Tenors with Luciano Pavarotti to the Grammy Winning "Genius Loves Company" by Ray Charles. More recently Mathes' work has expanded to co-producing the last three Sting records, and arranging music for groups from the Los Angeles Philharmonic to Panic! at the Disco, Carly Simon, and Bruce Springsteen.
Mathes received the 2012 Emmy in the Outstanding Music Direction category for his work with The Kennedy Center Honors, which airs on CBS each holiday season. It was his work with The Kennedy Center Honors that landed him what was the most star-studded show of his career, We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial in 2008, with performances by Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Bono, Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Renee Fleming, Josh Groban, Jon Bon Jovi, Herbie Hancock, Heather Headley, John Legend, Jennifer Nettles, John Mellencamp, Usher, Shakira, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, will.i.am and Stevie Wonder.
Mathes works frequently as a record producer in a wide range of genres. He has produced the last three Sting (musician) albums including Symphonicities, Best of 25 Years, and The Last Ship (album). Mathes has also produced many other artists including Panic! At The Disco, The Young Veins, Beth Hart, Bettye LaVette, Carly Simon, Rod Stewart, Vanessa L. Williams, Michael Cavanaugh, and Melissa Errico.
Arranging and Composition Work
Mathes has also done arranging and composition work for artists as diverse as Bruce Springsteen, Fall Out Boy, Train (band), Jillette Johnson, Gin Wigmore, Lou Reed, Bono, Sting, Sade, Lenny Kravitz and Jay-Z, Yo Yo Ma, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Luciano Pavarotti, Boston Pops Orchestra, Tony Bennett, Natalie Cole, Hot Hot Heat, Avril Lavigne, Butch Walker, Renée Fleming, Vanessa Carlton, Bowling For Soup, Evangeline Vournazos, Tim McGraw, Yolanda Adams, George Michael, Celine Dion, Panic! at the Disco, Ghostface Killah, Peter Cincotti, Renee Olstead, Lyle Lovett, Ronan Tynan, David Sanborn Michael McDonald, The Cab, and The Young Veins.
In addition to high profile work for others, Mathes has always channeled his resources back into his own music, recording albums such as Evening Train (a cult favorite among artists such as the late producer Phil Ramone, Jimmy Webb, and the late Warren Zevon), William the Angel (his Christmas album), Orchestral Songs, Rob Mathes: Beyond the Music (a live broadcast and accompanying sound track), Everywhere, and his latest album Flesh & Spirit (all found on iTunes).
Perhaps best known among his performances are yearly Christmas concerts, which have spawned 2 PBS television specials, Christmas Is Coming: Rob Mathes and Friends (featuring Michael McDonald, David Sanborn, Ossie Davis, and Vanessa L. Williams) and I Want To Hear The Bells, a documentary of his very first Christmas concert in 1993.
Among Mathes' most recent works is the arrangement for Renée Fleming's 2014 Super Bowl performance of the The Star-Spangled Banner recorded by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. Mathes performed on and co-produced Sting's 2013 album The Last Ship. Mathes' most recent personal album is Flesh & Spirit, just released in December of 2013. Other records that Mathes is credited for arranging that were released in 2013 and early 2014 are Bruce Springsteen's High Hopes (album), Fall Out Boy's Save Rock and Roll, Panic! at the Disco's Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!, and Jillette Johnson's Water in a Whale.