Born in Killarney, Robert Houlihan moved to Dublin at the age of sixteen and began his first music studies in the Army School of Music, before further study at the Municipal College of Music and under George Hurst as the Canford Summer School. In 1980 he won second prize at the International Competition for Young Conductors at Besançon and was awarded a scholarship from the French Government and the Arts Council to study contemporary music at the European Centre for Musical Research at Metz and conducting with Léon Barzin in Paris. He won further awards in 1983 in the Hungarian Television International Competition and this was followed by many engagements in Hungary, Romania and Czechoslovakia. He now lives in Metz, working at the Municipal Theatre. He has frequently conducted the Irish National Symphony Orchestra, the Radio Telefís Éireann Concert Orchestra and the Ulster Orchestra, as well as the Irish National Youth Orchestra, in addition to other engagements with orchestras throughout Europe. Since 1990 Robert Houlihan has been Principal Conductor of the State Philharmonic of Tirgu Mures in Romania, the first foreigner since the 1950s to hold such a position. Since 1992 he has served as Principal Conductor of the Savaria Symphony Orchestra in Hungary and is increasingly active as a teacher of conducting at the Canford Summer School of Music in England and also in France, Hungary and Portugal.