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PICAYUNE PEOPLE: Retired conductor and music man Robert Linder

Robert Linder

Music is everything to music producer and former conductor Robert Linder of Marble Falls. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

Retired conductor Robert Linder calls himself an “aggressive” person.

“You have to do whatever it takes to do whatever it takes,” he said. 

The 86-year-old Marble Falls resident credits that aggression for his three Grammy Award nominations as a music producer and 60 years of success as a conductor in major U.S. cities, including Cleveland, Milwaukee, Seattle, and Houston.

“You have to put yourself in a place to be discovered, and then you have to be ready when the train comes by,” he said. “I’ve been really great at catching trains. I look down the track and see them coming. That’s when I decide if that’s a train I need to be on or not. If it comes by and I get a break, I jump on that train.”

One of those first trains came in the early 1950s after Linder “escaped” his hometown of Crossett, Arkansas, and was subsequently accepted into the music program at the University of Houston. 

“I had been drum major in high school, and then all of a sudden, I was drum major for three years at Houston,” he said. “The band director loved me. Being the drum major and being close to the band director, when I graduated, he asked me to come back as his graduate assistant.”

That opportunity opened more doors for Linder.

“(The University of Houston band director) invited some big-name conductors to do clinics,” he said. “They’d work with young conductors, and I was one of them. I was on the right train.”

While at the University of Houston, Linder crossed paths with French conductor Pierre Monteux, a world-renowned maestro who conducted major orchestras in Boston, Amsterdam, San Francisco, and London. 

Linder approached Monteux student David Zinman and asked how he, too, could become the conductor’s student. Zinman, who went on to become a famous conductor himself, instructed Linder to inquire with Monteux’s wife about learning under her husband in Maine that summer.

Linder was subsequently invited on board, traveling to the Northeast to learn more about the art of conducting. The following year on his return to Maine, he could hardly contain his excitement. 

“I couldn’t wait to show Monteux how much I had improved,” he said. 

Unfortunately, Monteux died several months before Linder could demonstrate.

“I was distraught,” Linder said. “I was just crushed.”

Robert Linder
LEFT: Robert Linder instructing members of the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Houston during the late 1970s. RIGHT: Robert Linder could play virtually every instrument in the band as a director at Cy Fair High School. Courtesy photos

A couple of months later, Linder received a letter from the Boston Symphony Orchestra inviting him to be a member of the Pierre Monteux Memorial conducting class at Boston University’s Tanglewood Institute.

“If I had to audition for Tanglewood, I probably wouldn’t have made it, but here I am getting a free ride,” Linder said. “I got to see about eight of some of the best conductors.”

While Linder only studied at the institute for just over a month, what he learned catapulted his career to new heights.

“My resume was growing,” he laughed. 

After graduating college, Linder took work as a junior high band director at Cy Fair High School near Houston. At the time, it was his dream job.

“All I ever wanted to be was a junior high band director,” he said. “I could’ve died a junior high band director.”

Another figurative train hit the station for Linder in 1960 when he received an offer to become the assistant conductor of the Houston Youth Symphony. He applied after seeing an advertisement in a local paper.

“I worked five hours a week, and they paid me five dollars an hour, but I was a conductor,” he said. “I was a pro. It was a big deal.”

Two years later, Linder got another offer to be the assistant conductor for the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Houston, a performing arts organization showcasing the works of English lyricist W.S. Gilbert and English composer Arthur Sullivan. 

“Naturally, it all evolved, the conductors left, and I became the conductor of the (Houston) Youth Symphony and the conductor of the Gilbert and Sullivan,” he said.

Linder also accepted conductor jobs with the Houston Civic Symphony and the Houston Municipal Band in 1970 and 1971, respectively.

Months after becoming the lead conductor of the Gilbert and Sullivan Society, Linder was approached with an opportunity to produce “Princess Ida” on PBS in 1974. The title was nominated for an Emmy by the Television Academy. It marked the first of several instances Linder’s shows would air on national broadcasts for major networks, including NBC and CBS.

“It was really goosebumpy,” Linder said.

His TV success was followed by a conducting job with the Theater Under the Stars in Houston. He also served as a guest conductor for The 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle and the Cleveland Opera Company before returning to his home state in the late 1990s to lead the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.

As Linder’s career approached 50 years, he began producing music for Tierra Studios. Wildly successful, he was nominated for three Grammy Awards, including for Producer of the Year in 2010.

“We didn’t win anything, but it was an honor nevertheless,” he said.

The highly acclaimed music man found himself in the Highland Lakes after traveling back and forth over 700 miles between his two homes in New Mexico and Houston. As he grew older, he knew he needed a place to stop in the middle.

Linder remembered hunting with one of his Cy Fair junior high band students decades earlier in the woods of Southeast Texas.

“We would go out and use these (game) calls from the Burnham Brothers (an old Marble Falls sporting goods store),” Linder said. “They wrapped them in a paper that said ‘Marble Falls’ that had a beautiful picture of the Colorado River on it.”

He decided to purchase a plot of land in Marble Falls in the late 2000s and build a new home for himself and wife Diana. 

“It’s beautiful here,” he said. “We’ve lived in Houston, we’ve lived in the mountains, where it’s totally different, and we travel a lot, but we love the wildlife here.”

In January 2024, Linder demonstrated his gratitude for the Burnham brothers’ impact on his life by leading a movement to erect a monument dedicated to the siblings at Lakeside Park, 905 Buena Vista Drive.

Linder has also used his experience as a career musician to further promote music education in the Hill Country, serving on the board for FiestaJam, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that raises money for student music organizations in the Marble Falls area.

“I’ve got things that keep me busy here,” he said.

The 86-year-old “kid from Crossett” hopes to continue boosting music in the Highland Lakes by persuading residents to support the construction of a large performing arts facility like the ones in which he used to conduct.

“We have to start now to raise money for a performing arts center because it’s going to cost millions of dollars,” Linder said. “Now is the time for us as a community to jump on it. It will take all of us.”

Linder knows from experience that the center won’t come without a little bit of that aggression that’s opened doors for decades.

“I’ve spent my whole life on the outer edge because that’s where life is,” he said. “People love the safety of the middle. I ain’t going there. I get bigger goosebumps than they get.”


  • Music comes from people, not conductors.
  • The baton makes no noise.
  • Relationships with your musicians are key.
  • Tempo is everything.
  • Conductors must be in good physical shape.
  • Prepare, prepare, prepare, and always be ready.
  • Energy is vital to conducting.

1 thought on “PICAYUNE PEOPLE: Retired conductor and music man Robert Linder

  1. Hey, I remember this guy when he was a skinny kid, his hair was a few shades darker than your picture shows. He developed in a top of the mark musicologist, that has more music in his little finger than most musicians have after years of practice. He has helped make great musicians out of many successful students. You failed to mention that he is recognized as “Doctor Linder”in the greater music community? I hope God keeps him around for many more years, we need him.

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