After earlier studies and professional performance as a violinist Robert Harris studied viola with Richard Goldner and Charmian Gadd at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, USA (culminating in 1972 viola ‘debuts’ as co-soloist with Charmian Gadd in Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.6 in Pittsburgh and Sydney), then in postgraduate studies with Lorand Fenyves at the University of Toronto (1973-74). On his return to Australia Robert served as a Guest Principal Viola for the then Elizabethan Sydney Orchestra (now AOBO*) for the Australian Opera and Australian Ballet (1974) before six years as founder violist of the New England Ensemble, string trio/piano quartet in residence at the University of New England, Armidale, Australia (1975-80) serving university, town and regional communities but also touring nationally for Musica Viva and arts councils, and internationally to Asia (for Musica Viva/Dept Foreign Affairs), Europe and North America.
In later years Robert was a member and occasional Acting Principal of the Queensland Symphony (1982-84), Principal Viola of the Queensland Theatre Orchestra (1984-87), of the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra (1988 including the Adelaide Festival and Spoleto Festivals of Melbourne, Charleston USA and Spoleto Italy), of the Australian Chamber Orchestra (1989-90), Associate Principal Viola of the State Orchestra of Victoria (1991-94), Guest Principal Viola of the Auckland Philharmonia in New Zealand and Bangkok Symphony in Thailand (both late 1990s), declining with regret invitations to serve as Guest Principal/Associate Principal of the Melbourne Symphony (at various times 1984 into the 1990s), the Queensland Symphony (from 1981 until as recently as 2007), but currently serving as Principal Viola of the Canberra Symphony (since 2007).
A founder violist of Brisbane’s Festival Quartet (1984-98) and frequent guest violist of Melbourne’s Ensemble I, Robert continues a growing recitals network through his Viola Plus ensembles for the AIM series at St Andrews Cathedral and Art Gallery of NSW, in Canberra and in regional centres of NSW. Robert’s tour to North America in June 2010 for lectures/recitals/presentations at the William Primrose Viola Archive at Brigham Young University near Salt Lake City, at the Grainger House in New York, Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts in Pittsburgh and for the International Viola Congress in Cincinnati continue a tradition of his invitations to/presentations at IVS Congresses from Wellington (2001), Seattle (2002), Reykjavik (2005), Montreal (2006), Adelaide (2007) and Capetown (2009).
Robert Harris joined AIM in early 2009 as a teacher of viola, violin, tutor of chamber music ensembles and accasional host of Strings Masterclasses.