A native of Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland, Robert lived in Metz, France from 1981 until 2002, where he conducted for several years at the Municipal Theatre, as well as frequently guest conducting l’Orchestre National de Lorraine, l’Orchestre de Chambre de Metz and his own ‘Nouvel Ensemble Instrumental’. He became a French citizen in 1988.
From 1990 to 1993 Robert was Principal Conductor of the Tirgu Mures Philharmonic, Romania. From 1992 to 1998 he held the position of Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of the Savaria Symphony Orchestra, Hungary, an orchestra which he brought on a successful tour of Ireland in 1996, celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Hungarian Uprising.
Robert Houlihan’s festival appearances include the BBC Proms and the Almeida Festival, London, The Budapest Spring Festival and the Bartok Festival, Hungary, The Summer Festival, Amsterdam and the Wurzburg Mozart Festival, Germany, to name a few.
Robert has conducted over 100 different orchestras since he began his career. More recently he was invited to conduct the orchestras of Tours (France), The Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestra of the National Opera House, Maribor (Slovenia).
Robert has a wide range of repertoire covering various genres, from Baroque to the great repertoire of the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as Opera, Operetta and Ballet.
Due to his solid and precise technique, corroborated by the international press, he is very often invited to conduct demanding new contemporary works. He has also worked successfully with soloists of international renown such as Maxim Vengerov, Olivier Charlier, Javier Camarena, Rebecca Olvera, Lesley Garret, Istvan Ruha, Miklos Perenyi, Patrick Gallois, Joaquin Achucarro, John O Conor and more.
In addition to his conducting appearances, Robert has recorded the works of major Irish composers (with both RTE Orchestras) and is in much demand as a teacher, giving classes in Ireland (for the Irish Association of Youth Orchestras), France, Holland, Portugal and Hungary. In 1987 and 1989 Robert organised and conducted two tours with the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland to France, Luxemburg and Belgium and a third tour in 1994 to Hungary.
From 1989 until 2013 he reserved two weeks in August each year to tutor with the late George Hurst on the conducting faculty at the renowned Sherborne(formerly Canford) Summer School of Music, Sherborne, England. Since 2014 Robert has been teaching masterclasses twice a year at his home in Kerry, Ireland, with students coming from Europe and beyond.
Robert Houlihan returned to live in his native Ireland in December 2002. He now appears as a guest conductor with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, the RTE Concert Orchestra and the Ulster Orchestra as well as other European Orchestras.