Akinmusire was born and raised in Oakland, California. Before he was eighteen, Ambrose had already performed with such famed musicians as saxophonists Joe Henderson, Joshua Redman, Steve Coleman, and drummer Billy Higgins. After graduating from Berkeley High School in 2000, he moved to New York to begin a full scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music, studying with Vincent Pinzerella from the New York Philharmonic, Dick Oatts, Lew Soloff, and Laurie Frink, and obtaining a Bachelor's Degree in 2005. Ambrose is a 2007 graduate of the Masters program at University of Southern California, and also the Monk Institute of Jazz. Ambrose’s instructors include Terence Blanchard, Billy Childs and Gary Grant. In the past year, he has worked with such artists as saxophonist Jimmy Heath, pianist Jason Moran, trombonist Hal Crook, Bob Hurst, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, double bassist Ron Carter, trumpeter Wallace Roney, pianist Herbie Hancock and saxophonist Wayne Shorter.
In 2007 Akinmusire won two of the most prestigious jazz competitions in the world, the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition (the panel of judges included trumpeters Quincy Jones, Herb Alpert, Terence Blanchard, Hugh Masekela, Clark Terry and Roy Hargrove following the semi-finals of the competition that was held at Schoenberg Hall on the University of California, Los Angeles Campus) and the Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition (International Trumpet Guild (ITG) and the Herb Alpert Foundation sponsor this bi-annual event, held at the University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona).