Robert Helps was Professor of Music at the University of South Florida, Tampa, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He was a recipient of awards in composition from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim, Ford, and many other foundations, and of a 1976 Academy Award from the Academy of Arts and Letters. His orchestral piece Adagio for Orchestra, which later became the middle movement of his Symphony No. 1, won a Fromm Foundation award and was premièred by Leopold Stokowski and the Symphony of the Air (formerly the NBC Symphony) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. His Piano Concerto No. 1 was commissioned by the Thorne Music Fund and first performed by the composer with the Manhattan Conservatory orchestra. His Piano Concerto No. 2 was commissioned through the Ford Foundation by Richard Goode and performed by him with the Oakland (CA) Symphony.
Robert Helps served as professor of piano at the New England Conservatory, the San Francisco Conservatory, Princeton University, Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the Manhattan School of Music. He was artist-in-residence (pianist) at the University of California-Davis in 1973. He was recorded extensively as pianist, composer, and pianist/composer on such labels as Victor, Columbia, Composers Recordings Inc., Deutsche Grammophon, New World, Desto, Son Nova, and GM Recordings. Many of his compositions, including his Symphony No. 1 (Naumburg Award) and Gossamer Noons for voice and orchestra, are recorded. He was very active as a solo and chamber music pianist throughout the United States. His major teachers were Abby Whiteside for piano, and Roger Sessions for composition, and he toured extensively with such internationally famous performers as Bethany Beardslee, Isidore Cohen, Rudolf Kolisch, Phyllis Curtin, soprano, and Aaron Copland, and for many years performed solo and chamber works, many of them world premières, for internationally known chamber music and contemporary music organizations in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Minneapolis, and elsewhere. His later concerts included memorial solo recitals of the music of renowned American composer Roger Sessions at both Harvard and Princeton Universities, an all-Ravel recital at Harvard, and a solo recital in Town Hall, NY.
His final compositions include Eventually the Carousel Begins, for two pianos, A Mixture of Time for guitar and piano, which had its première in San Francisco in June 1990 by Adam Holzman and the composer, The Altered Landscape (1992) for organ solo and Shall We Dance (1994) for piano solo, Piano Trio No. 2, and a piano quartet commissioned by the Koussevitzky Music Foundation. He died in 2001.