Robert Aitken received his earliest training in composition from Barbara Pentland. He later enrolled at the University of Toronto, where he completed undergraduate and graduate degrees under the supervision of John Weinzweig (B.Mus. 1961; M.Mus. 1964). Since then, he has completed commissions for a number of prestigious organizations, including the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the CBC, the National Youth Orchestra, the York Winds, Ircam, the Elmer Iseler Singers, the Société de Musique Contemporaine du Québec, and New Music Concerts. These and other works are available in editions published by Universal, Salabert, Ricordi, and Peer Music.
In addition to his busy career as a flautist, Aitken has served as Professor of Flute at the Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg, Germany (1988-2004), and as Artistic Director of the Banff Centre’s Advanced Studies in Music Program (1986-89), Toronto’s New Music Concerts (1971-present), and Music at Shawnigan (1981-1990). Aitken counts more than 40 recordings to his credit, and is the dedicatee of works by such notable composers as John Cage, George Crumb, Elliott Carter, Toru Takemitsu, Gilles Tremblay, and Bruce Mather. As both a composer and flautist he has garnered the Canada Music Citation, the Canadian Music Council Medal, the Jean A. Chalmers National Music Award, the Order of Canada, and the William Harold Moon Award. Recently named Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the government of France, Aitken was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Flute Association (USA) in 2003.
After completing his studies in flute with Nicolas Fiore in Toronto (1955-59), Robert Aitken was appointed principal flute of the Vancouver symphony—the youngest musician to hold such a position in the history of the orchestra. He later served as second flute player for the CBC’s Radio Orchestra and the Toronto Symphony (1960-64). Aitken studied with Marcel Moyse intermittently and over a period of nine years in Vermont and Europe, and considers Moyse’s teachings as having had the most profound influence on his development as a musician. He also worked with Jean-Pierre Rampal (Paris, Nice), Severino Gazzeloni (Rome), André Jaunet (Zurich), and Hubert Barwähser (Amsterdam).
Aitken has received prizes from the Concours international de flûte de Paris (1971) as well as the Concours international de flûte pour la musique contemporaine in Royan, France (1972). He has given masterclasses in a number of countries, including Cuba, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and the United States.