Born in South Lee, Massachusetts, Rathbun studied at the New England Conservatory and became the organist at St. John's Episcopal Church in Hampton, Virginia, where he also taught music at the Hampton Institute. He is best known for writing the hymn "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say." It is not clear how he took on the conductorship of the Virginia Glee Club, but it is possible that a connection was made during the Club's tour during the Glee Club 1894-1895 season, as that tour featured performances in Norfolk.
- "Composer Frederick Rathbun Wrote Music in 'Gay Nineties'". Rathbun-Rathbone-Rathburn Family Historian VII (2): 20–21. April 1987. http://www.michaelrathbun.org/07-1987/07-002.pdf.
- Corks and Curls. 9. 1896. pp. 114-115. http://books.google.com/books?id=0ahVAAAAYAAJ&dq=%22university%20of%20virginia%22%20%22bradford%20burwell%22&pg=PA115#v=onepage&q=glee&f=falseq&f=false.