Robert Vernon, a native of Toronto, studied at The Juilliard School in New York and received the prestigious Martha Dwight Douglas Foundation scholarship; his teachers included Ara Zerounian, Jack Boesen, Sally Thomas, and Ivan Galamian. At the invitation of Sir Georg Solti, he participated in the Solti Orchestral Project at Carnegie Hall, a gathering of talented young musicians and principal players from leading American orchestras, and the World Orchestra for Peace, in Geneva, an ensemble that brought together professional musicians from around the world to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations.
From 1976 to 2016, he was principal violist of the Cleveland Orchestra, with whom he appeared as soloist in more than 100 concerts throughout North America and Europe. After forty years with the orchestra, he received the Distinguished Service Award upon his retirement. With the orchestra he recorded Berlioz’s Harold in Italy (conducted by Lorin Maazel); Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante (with concertmaster Daniel Majeske, conducted by Christoph von Dohnanyi); and Strauss’s Don Quixote (with cellist Lynn Harrell, conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy). A noted recitalist and chamber music player, he is a founding member of the Cleveland Piano, and he has appeared at the Aspen, Blossom, La Jolla, Marlboro, Ravinia, Roundtop, Sarasota, Tanglewood, and Yellow Barn festivals.
Vernon is also among the foremost teachers of the instrument as head of the viola department at the Cleveland Institute of Music with recent teaching duties at Juilliard. His students hold positions as chamber musicians and teachers and as players with virtually every major orchestra in North America.