Helps’ musical education initially offered him the best of the American “academic” tradition. A student of Roger Sessions (at Princeton and UC Berkeley) during his formative years as composer, Helps had the opportunity to hone his musical “craft” without the psychic interference often posed by composition teachers.
Sessions never imposed a “style” upon his students, and the vast number of unique and contrasting composers issued from his training attests to this fact: Milton Babbitt, Robert Helps, Vivian Fine, Earl Kim, Frederic Rzewski, John Harbison, etc.
Helps adored Sessions’ music; as pianist he had given many premiere performances, and continued to broadcast this enthusiasm throught his life. His crucial recording of Sessions three piano sonatas is available from CRI records (now distributed by New World Records).