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William Ackerman

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William Ackerman (born 1949)[1] is an American guitarist who founded Windham Hill Records.

Will Ackerman
Born 1949 (age 68–69)
Genres American Primitive, New Age, Chamber Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, producer
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1976–present
Labels Windham Hill, Imaginary Road, Lifescapes



Early yearsEdit

Will Ackerman is universally recognized as the preeminent pioneer in the New Age Music movement and the founder of Windham Hill Records.

Ackerman was born in Palo Alto, CA. His adoptive father was a professor of English at Stanford University.[2] He grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and attended [[Northfield Mount Hermon School in western Massachusetts. There his roommate, Jim Baldwin, instructed him in the open guitar tuning that became the basis of his future compositions. Will returned to CA and to Stanford University to study History and English.

His life took a radical turn when he discovered a fondness for and natural competence in carpentry. He was five credits shy of graduating when he decided to leave Stanford and became a carpenter apprentice under a Norwegian boat builder. He soon founded his own Windham Hill Builders in Palo Alto in 1972, Meanwhile, he continued to play music for Stanford University theater productions and at impromptu concerts around town. "Producing Music for the Heart." Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate, May 2, 1984, p. 8B.</ref> In 1975, without having played a "paying gig"

"(a) group of friends and informal fans got together and collected about $300 in five dollar bills to send me into a recording studio. I picked a studio out of the phone book named Mantra Studios (it was the 70s after all!). I walked into that room and made a record I called The Search for the Turtle's Navel in two afternoons." (William Ackerman, liner notes for Returning, 2005).

Will and a friend undertook a two-man promotional campaign on behalf of The Turtle's

Navel that resulted in significant airplay on radio stations. Will played his first paying gig at the Seattle Opera House before an audience of 3,700 people.

Windham Hill RecordsEdit

He abandoned carpentry when music took up most of his time. Radio airplay of his music demanded independent distribution and the inescapable conclusion that a record label had been born, Windham Hill Records. The second artist on the label was Alex deGrassi, Will's cousin and part of his building crew. The label grew exponentially for a number of years, but exploded onto the national scene in 1980 with the release of George Winston's Autumn, the label's first Gold, then Platinum, then multi-Platinum Records.

Early releases included his own album, It Takes a Year (1977), and Turning: Turning Back (1978) by Alex De Grassi, his cousin. The album that gained Windham Hill attention was an album of solo piano, Autumn (1980) by George Winston. It was reviewed in Rolling Stone and for many years was the bestselling album in the catalogue.

Ackerman's other great discovery was Michael Hedges. He has often told the story of how he heard Hedges performing in a Palo Alto cafe and immediately wrote a recording contract for him on a paper napkin. Hedges and Ackerman performed concerts together for several years in the early 1980s and played together on one of Ackerman's albums. Some other notable artists he produced include Liz Story and Shadowfax.

Will Ackerman has been nominated for 3 Grammy Awards and won a Grammy in 2004 for his CD "Returning".

Imaginary RoadEdit

In 1992, he sold Windham Hill to BMG and stopped recording and producing music for two years because of a non-compete agreement with BMG.

He now produces and records award-winning artists at his Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont. The walls of Imaginary Road are lined with Gold and Platinum Records. Most of the artists he produces at Imaginary Road Studios find themselves in the top 15 of the ZMR charts.

As guitaristEdit

Ackerman's musical influences include Erik Satie, John Fahey, Robbie Basho, and Leo Kottke. He has told an anecdote about his musical debt to John Fahey. One of his early pieces of music sounded a great deal like a Fahey composition titled "The Last Steam Engine Train" and so he visited Fahey, asked him if he thought the music was too similar, and played him the tune. Fahey said "You can have it!". The tune in question is "The Rediscovery of Big Bug Creek, Arizona", from It Takes a Year.

On guitar tunings, Ackerman has said that none of his songs use the standard guitar tuning.[3] For example, his song "Processional" has the D string tuned up to an E, and the high E string tuned down to a C with a capo on the 5th fret. He also says that only two songs share the same tuning (at least as of 2000). Ackerman's love of non-standard tunings (coupled with the use of a capo) allows him to play melodies where many of the notes can be played without fretting, allowing the strings to "ring free". He shared his love of non-standard tunings with Michael Hedges.



  1. ^ Ruhlmann, William. Will Ackerman biography. allmusic.
  2. ^ Tom Casciato. "Stanford Carpenter Runs Record Label."The Stanford (CA) Daily, November 15, 1977, p. 4.
  3. ^

External linksEdit