For Stephanie Mathias, music is an integral part of life. The pop singer-songwriter has gone from playing violin in orchestras in Mexico to running a music podcast (DC Music Rocks) to collaborating with local DMV artists on her own songs. As an award-winning violinist, singer, songwriter, and pianist, her diverse repertoire in the music industry speaks for itself, but Mathias has much more up her sleeve.
This Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrate with Stephanie Mathias as she and contributing writer, Margaret Adams, explore the ways in which Mathias’s own Hispanic background and history contributes to her approach and appreciation of performance. Learn how the DMV area impacted her collaborations, and how she is able to stand out from other pop artists.
As a child, Mathias illustrated her gifts before she could even realize it–she started playing violin at the age of three and won her first songwriting competition at the age of ten.
“For me music has been a necessity as a form of expression, processing, and connection,” wrote Mathias. “I have always felt that I didn’t have a choice but to be a musician – I have worn many different musical hats over the years and have held other jobs outside of music, but I have always been a musician.”
Her passion for writing and recording music came when she was experiencing lots of hardships in her own life–in 2013, Mathias released her single, “Becky’s Song,” as a response to her sister’s suicide attempt. The emotional song was Mathias’s way to process and convey her own emotions and show her vulnerability in a way her audience can relate to.
After graduating from Western Michigan University with her degrees in both Classical Music and Spanish, she played in multiple professional orchestras in Mexico in 2010-2012: “In those orchestras in Mexico, I developed the musical chops and confidence that I needed to prepare me for my work as a solo violinist here in the DMV.”
Mathias’s experience in the DMV has characterized both her song choices and collaborations: just last year, she worked with Jarreau Williams, a local DMV artist, on their anthemic and inspirational single, “Starting Over.”
“I love the diverse culture of the DMV,” wrote Mathias. “I have benefitted so much from it in my work as a cover artist – if you took a look at my playlist – most of the songs added have been requests I’ve gotten over the years from my clients in this area – I’ve lived here for nearly 10 years – and the genres are all over the place and all over the world as well! I love it.”
When asked about her major influences, Mathias didn’t point towards a specific artist or time period; instead, she said that she is influenced by artists that “push the limits of what they can do and what is considered normal.”
“…[W]hether it be changing a classical instrument to play modern music, combining different genres, or creating new musical styles,” wrote Mathias. “I am also inspired by artists who are open and vulnerable in their lives as well as in their music. When I see artists going outside of their comfort zone, it encourages me to do so as well, to be brave enough to create and share something from my heart.”
Mathias’s ambitious desire to set a new standard with her music seems to come from her Latin background. Leading the songwriter to pursue a degree in higher education, Mathias’s Spanish heritage is interwoven throughout her musical experiences.
“[T]hat Hispanic heritage did lead me to pursue a degree in Spanish language studies (double major with music) and that led me to live in Mexico and marry someone from Mexico!” wrote Mathias. “13 years after setting foot there for the first time, Mexican culture and music is a deeply ingrained part of my own personal life, culture, and music. I even bought my first electric violin in Mexico… I know that I have felt the influence of so many Latin artists who are daring, advocating, and vulnerable in their art. They inspire me to keep creating.”
Stephanie Mathias’s music is both danceable and heartfelt. Over the course of her career as a musician, she learned one of the most important and more difficult values every good songwriter and musician should give in their songs: vulnerability. Sharing the challenges of life and vulnerabilities is what characterizes Mathias’s music: “Usually when I write a song, it comes from a period of trials or growth, as a way to help me understand it and see the positive side of things.”
“My biggest and perhaps most surprising superpower has been vulnerability. I open up to my fans about weaknesses and trials that my music has helped me cope with. It seems very counterproductive to business to display my faults out there for people to see. And in my music business in general, I do try to maintain a standard of professionalism, especially online (when I am in person, people quickly see how down to earth I am.) But the faults seem to be what captivates people. I have to admit, as a listener I also prefer artists who share their humanity as well. It’s easy for us to share when things are going well, so it stands out when we share our challenges.”
When asked about the nuances of the production process, Mathias illustrates the importance of having people that understand her singular vision; having a producer that isn’t on the same page as the artist results in music that the artist didn’t intend on producing. She also noted that being a perfectionist in the recording booth can actually be restricting to the artist.
“As these songs are so dear to my heart, I obviously want them to be recorded and produced well, but I am working on embracing the imperfections of my abilities and focusing more on enjoying the creation process.”
Mathias hopes to continue composing more songs in Spanish in the future. As she has grown into the wife and mother she is today, her love of music and her ability to draw vulnerability into her songs has shown what a powerful musician she is.
Stephanie Mathias is returning to audiences’ ears very soon–she will be releasing her new single, “Lifetime Every Day” before the holidays. Until then, audiences can stream her last few singles (“Blue Diamond Light,” “Hero Side,” and “Starting Over”) on any popular streaming platform: “I love creating stripped back versions and hope to release more similar recordings in future!”
Margaret Adams is a Psychology major and Rhetoric and Writing minor at The Catholic University of America from New Orleans, Louisiana. In addition to her work with Alchemical, she writes for CUA’s student newspaper, The Tower, and has recently been named Quill Editor. She enjoys reading, writing, and looking at pictures of her dog, Bella.
Zaii Valdes of Violet Silhouette discusses new album and proud roots in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.
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How did you first get involved in music?
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