Robert Ainsley began his musical career at the age of eleven, studying the piano and violin at Durham School, in England. He became a Licentiate of Trinity College of Music, London, in solo piano performance at age 17 and won the National Schools’ Chamber Music Competition twice. Subsequently, Mr. Ainsley was awarded the organ scholarship to St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge, where he studied with Dr. Peter Hurford, Dr. John Butt, and David Sanger. He also directed the chapel choir for three years, conducting and playing in many major venues around the world.
In 1999, he graduated with a degree in Mathematics, and later that year became the senior organ scholar at Christ Church, Greenwich, Connecticut. During his time on the East Coast, he also served as assistant conductor and accompanist of the New Haven Chorale and Greenwich Choral Society, and completed a Master’s degree in solo piano performance at Mannes College of Music, New York City. After serving as Maestro Joseph Colaneri’s assistant in the opera department for a year at Mannes College of Music, Mr. Ainsley joined the Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Young Artist Development Program as a coach and pianist. His two years in the program culminated in his acting as assistant conductor and pianist for Wagner’s Die Walküre with Maestro Valery Gergiev and Plácido Domingo.
Mr. Ainsley went on to become Co-founder and Principal Conductor of the Greenwich Music Festival in Connecticut. With this group he conducted Purcell's Dido and Aeneas (2005), Orff's Carmina Burana (2006), Handel's Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne (2007), Monteverdi's Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria (2008), Ullman's Der Kaiser von Atlantis (2009), and Hans Werner Henze's El Cimarrón (2010).
In 2006, Mr. Ainsley was appointed the Associate Music Director and Chorus Master for Portland Opera, where he also conducted Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria (2006), Albert Herring (2007), La Calisto (2009), and Il Ballo delle Ingrate/Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda/Trouble in Tahiti (2010). In addition to remaining active as a recitalist and accompanist, he now serves as the Head of Music and Chorus Master of Minnesota Opera, and the Head of Music Staff and Chorus Master at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, where he has worked on projects including The Death of Klinghoffer (St. Louis, 2011), Arabella (Minnesota, 2014), and the world premières of Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland (St. Louis, 2012), Terence Blanchard’s Champion (St. Louis, 2013) and Kevin Puts’ The Manchurian Candidate (Minnesota, 2015).