Born in Buffalo, New York, Robert Stewart spent his formative years in Chicago, later receiving a masters degree in Music Education, Violin, and Composition at the American Conservatory. He was a professional violinist and teacher, and during World War II composed for the Armed Forces radio shows. He received a MacDowell Colony fellowship (1956) and served as president of the Southeastern Composers League. He was involved with the Bennington Composers Conference Board and was recommended for ACA membership by Roger Goeb, Chow Wen-Chung, and Lionel Nowak. He was head of the Department of Music and Drama at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA, where he taught from 1954 to 1988. His archives are housed at Washington and Lee.