Bruce Springsteen called Rob Mathes his “secret weapon,” thanks to his contributions to Springsteen’s latest album Only the Strong Survive. Vanessa Williams lovingly refers to him as “Mr. Christmas,” as the two have collaborated on several holiday Christmas albums. Sting (yes, THE Sting) calls him “his lion.”
So who in the world is Rob Mathes? He is, quite possibly, the most famous musician you’ve never heard of.
Rob Mathes is an Emmy award-winning, Grammy, Tony, and Drama Desk Award-nominated musician and Greenwich, Connecticut, resident. He is the man behind the music, producing albums, arranging, orchestrating, and is a sought-after music director. And he keeps himself very, very busy.
In October, he made his debut conducting the New York Philharmonic orchestra for the opening of the new David Geffen Hall at the Lincoln Center in New York City. Joining Rob on stage for the opening gala night’s performance were Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of Hamilton, Sara Bareilles, Brandon Victor Dixon, Renée Fleming, Brian Stokes Mitchel, Joaquina Kalukango, Bernadette Peters, Vanessa Williams, and the Juilliard School Preparatory Division Chorus.
This year he also worked with Bruce Springsteen on his newest album Only the Strong Survive, arranging strings and horns; he also orchestrated Panic at the Disco’s new record Viva Las Vengeance and worked with Sting and Shaggy on their new album titled Com Fly Wid Mi, a compilation of the Frank Sinatra songbook sung in reggae style.
But there’s more! Rob Mathes’ credits include conducting the orchestrations for new artist Scarypoolparty’s debut album The Act of Forgiveness on Hollywood Records, arranging and conducting the orchestra for Weezer’s new album OK Human, conducting a live performance of Weezer’s record with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA, orchestrating the songs for the film of Lin Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights, and also orchestrating Lin’s directorial debut Tick, Tick, Boom, written by Jonathan Larson, composer of Rent. Rob worked closely with Hamilton’s music producer Alex Lacamoire on both projects and worked on “Spaces”, a new album by artist Pete Muller. In September 2020, Rob musically directed the first in-person show since the start of the pandemic performed at the Kennedy Center, featuring soprano Renée Fleming and singer Vanessa Williams. He won an Emmy for his long-time musical direction of the Kennedy Center Honors and was nominated for a Tony for his work on Sting’s The Last Ship.
Over the years, Rob has written orchestrations for a number of artists all over the stylistic spectrum, from Elton John, Tony Bennett, Lou Reed, and Mavis Staples to Jay Z, Lenny Kravitz, Mary J. Blige, and Beck, from Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, Harry Connick Jr., and Fall Out Boy, to work with classical artists such as Renée Fleming, Bryn Terfel, Deborah Voigt, and Yo-Yo Ma. His arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner for the 2013 Super Bowl for Renée Fleming and the New Jersey Symphony was published by Hal Leonard and his arrangement of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven for the band Heart (Ann and Nancy Wilson), performed at the Kennedy Center Honors, led to him being asked by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page to testify at the trial over the song’s publishing rights, which they won.
Not too shabby!
But despite his busy schedule, he always makes time for his hometown fans with an annual holiday concert, a tradition in the New York City/Connecticut area for 29 years. The Rob Mathes Holiday Concert, which takes place right here at The Purchase PAC, will feature some of NY’s finest musicians, including Mathes himself. It is an eclectic evening of high-energy pop, jazz, and rhythm and blues, with original holiday songs and many newly arranged classics. They all have a unique Rob Mathes touch on them.
Rob’s Dad is a Dylan fan, his Uncle a big band trombonist and his Mother and Aunt play Mozart and Chopin all day. Rob brings together influences from Duke Ellington to Joni Mitchell, from Jeff Beck to Vaughan Williams, and the evening is always quite a musical journey. His all-star band has a six-piece horn section featuring Jeff Kievit on trumpet, Will Lee from the Late Show with David Letterman and The Fab Faux on bass, Billy Masters on guitar, Gunnar Olsen on percussion, Rick Knutsen on keyboards, and James “D Train” Williams and Vaneese Thomas, two local legends who sing RnB and Gospel and who have stolen the show for the better part of two decades. Also performing with Rob is a 40-voice choir.
“I really can’t wait to be back on stage at The Performing Arts Center,” noted Rob Mathes. “It is my ‘home away from home.’ For myself and my incredibly loyal fans, all of whom are family at this point, the Holiday Concert helps kick off the holiday season. Many have said to me, ‘it isn’t the holidays without your concert.’ That means so much to me and I don’t take it lightly. We’ll be bringing our all to the PepsiCo Theater at The Performing Arts Center Friday and Saturday nights.”
Come on out and get to know this incredible musician a little better! The annual Rob Mathes Holiday Concert at The Performing Arts Center at Purchase College will take place on Friday, December 16, and Saturday, December 17, at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are available by clicking here, and first and second-row VIP seats can be purchased through the concert’s nonprofit beneficiary Food Rescue US – Fairfield County