Matt Catingub Biography
Updated December 2021
Artistic Director and Co-Founder of the Macon Pops in Macon, GA
Artistic Director and Conductor of the Glendale Pops in Glendale, CA (Retired)
Artistic Director and Conductor of the Hawaii Pops in Honolulu, HI (Retired)
Past Principal Pops Conductor of the Honolulu Symphony, the Hawaii Symphony, the New Mexico Symphony, and the New Hampshire Music Festival.
Award winning jazz performer, saxophonist, vocalist, pianist, arranger, composer, and world renowned orchestra Pops conductor Matt Catingub wears many hats. The son of the great jazz vocalist and “Polynesia’s First Lady of Song,” Mavis Rivers, Matt, a proud pacific islander, was bestowed the Samoan Chief’s title of La`auli by King Malietoa Tanumafili II. At age 17 he performed and presented his original big band compositions at the Monterey Jazz Festival. As a result of his success he then toured Japan playing with jazz legends Dizzy Gillespie, Thad Jones, and Ruth Brown. In his early years Matt, along with his famous mother, travelled and performed throughout the world, highlighted by a performance at the 1983 Royal Variety Performance for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip.
Right out of high school Catingub joined the big bands of Louie Bellson and Toshiko Akiyoshi as the featured lead alto saxophonist. At age 21 he formed the Matt Catingub Big Band, with his mom as vocalist, and recorded several critically acclaimed albums, including a still highly innovative “One-Man-Big-Band” recording called Hi-Tech Big Band on which Matt played all of the instruments, including drums, and utilized the then cutting edge Yamaha DX7 synthesizer. To this day Matt is still a Yamaha Music Artist endorsing Yamaha Saxophones, and was also very involved with the company’s cutting edge Midi Saxophone developments in the 1990’s eventually leading a big band of all-star Yamaha artists, including Tom Scott, Steve Gadd, and Patrice Rushen to name a few.
The 90’s also saw Matt focus more on his keyboard and conducting talents and became a long-time music director for legendary artists such as Jack Jones, Toni Tennille, The Captain & Tennille, and semi-regularly for Maureen McGovern, Michael Feinstein, and others. This experience eventually led to the orchestra Pops world
In 1995 Matt, the solo artist, made his solo singing debut at the Frank Sinatra Celebration at Carnegie Hall, alongside Linda Ronstadt, and then signed with Concord records recording a number of CD’s and creating his most successful big band to date: Big Kahuna And The Copa Cat Pack. The band was a group of young fire-breathing and talented jazz musicians assembled for the purposes of recording and touring, notably with the legendary Rosemary Clooney. Focusing on high energy neo-swing the band toured the world and made it’s mark on the jazz scene in many ways. Significantly the drummer for the band, Steve Moretti, has gone on to become Matt’s full-time drummer and musical partner.
in 2005 Matt wrote and performed the music for the George Clooney film, “Goodnight and Good Luck,” appearing onscreen, as well as creating all the music on the Grammy winning soundtrack.
Matt stepped into the world of Orchestra Pops in 1998 when he was asked to become the Principal Pops Conductor for the Honolulu Symphony, following a couple of initial stand-out performances with the orchestra. Seizing this new opportunity Matt proceeded to book the orchestra’s Pops season asking many of his artist friends & colleagues to join him on-stage with the orchestra. In Hawaii Matt arranged and orchestrated the music for artists such as Kenny Loggins, James Ingram, Boz Scaggs, the Righteous Brothers, Rosemary Clooney, Vertical Horizon, Natalie Cole, Toni Tennille, Michael McDonald, Dave Koz, Toto, Pat Benatar, and many many others. He built what is still to this day the finest Pops program the Honolulu Symphony had ever seen.
Since that time Matt has conducted for some of the most important Symphony Orchestras in the country, including Nashville, Atlanta, Houston, St. Louis, Buffalo, Hartford, Omaha, Cincinnati, as well as the Florida Orchestra, the Pacific Symphony, and at orchestras throughout Canada, Korea, and Japan. Matt has conducted for artists as diverse as Diana Krall, Yes, Al Jarreau, Gladys Knight, Kenny Rogers, Take Six, Elvis Costello, Glen Campbell, and numerous others.
Matt was also named the Principal Pops Conductor of the New Mexico Symphony and The New Hampshire Music Festival, and in 2013, along with Steve Moretti, created and founded the Macon Pops in Macon, Georgia, growing it into one of the most talked-about musical entities to come along in years.
Today Matt is at the forefront of a new and innovative movement to reinvent orchestra Pops into a more fun and accessible format, encouraging dancing and loose fun, within a more informal and contemporary setting. His latest project FROM SAMOA TO SINATRA honors the musical legacy of both Frank Sinatra along with his mother Mavis Rivers. All of this, along with Matt’s continued adventures as a jazz & contemporary music performer, have kept him busy, and will continue to do so for many years.