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Mathes was born in Boston, Massachusetts to classical musicians and music instructors Joan and George Mathes. The family moved to Greenwich, Connecticut, where his parents taught music with the local schools and privately. Rob 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 was already working regularly as a professional writer and performer in the clubs of nearby New York City. He toured with Chuck Mangione in his early 20s. Mathes then 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 works frequently as a record producer in a wide range of genres. He has produced the last three Sting albums: Symphonicities, Best of 25 Years, and The Last Ship. 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
Albums that Mathes is credited for arranging include:
- Genius Loves Company (2004) – Ray Charles
- Save Rock and Roll (2013) – Fall Out Boy
- Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! (2013) – Panic! at the Disco
- Water in a Whale (2013) – Jillette Johnson
- High Hopes (2014) – Bruce Springsteen
- Pray for the Wicked (2018) – Panic! at the Disco
Other artists for whom Mathes has done arranging and composition work include Train, 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, Ghostface Killah, Peter Cincotti, Renee Olstead, Lyle Lovett, Ronan Tynan, David Sanborn, Michael McDonald, Eliane Elias, The Cab and The Young Veins.
Mathes has also released his own albums, including Evening Train (a cult favorite among artists such as Phil Ramone, Jimmy Webb and Warren Zevon), William the Angel (a Christmas album), Orchestral Songs, Rob Mathes: Beyond the Music (a live broadcast and accompanying sound track), Everywhere, Flesh & Spirit and "Wheelbarrow."
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 first Christmas concert in 1993. Mathes celebrated 25 years of performing his annual holiday concerts in 2018 with special guests Sting, Vanessa Williams and David Sanborn joining him on stage for a few holiday-themed songs.
Mathes' work with The Kennedy Center Honors 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.
Awards and honors
- Concert flyer (PDF) First United Methodist Church, Stamford, Connecticut (March 7, 2010) Retrieved January 10, 2011
- Small, Mark. "[NO TITLE FOUND] | Berklee College of Music". Berklee.edu. Retrieved 2014-08-09.
- Mathes, Rob. "Rob Mathes | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-08-09.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-04-12. Retrieved 2017-02-25.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "A Soprano Is Facing 'Star-Spangled' Jitters". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-08-09.
- "Super Bowl XLVIII: New Jersey Symphony to accompany Renee Fleming". LA Times. 2014-01-29. Retrieved 2014-08-09.
- "Javier Navarrete, Rob Mathes and Rob Berman Win First Emmys | News". BMI.com. 2012-09-18. Retrieved 2014-08-09.