William Ackerman

William Ackerman (born November 16, 1949) is an American guitarist and record producer who founded Windham Hill Records.[1]

William Ackerman
Also known asWill Ackerman
Born (1949-11-16) November 16, 1949 (age 72)
Palo Alto, California
GenresNew-age, jazz, pop[1]
Occupation(s)Musician, record producer
Years active1976–present
LabelsWindham Hill, Imaginary Road, Lifescapes
Associated actsFlow


Early yearsEdit

Ackerman was born in Palo Alto, California. 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. His roommate instructed him in the open guitar tuning that became the basis for his compositions. He returned to Palo Alto to study English and History at Stanford University.

His life took a turn when he discovered he had a fondness for carpentry. He was five credits short of graduating when he left Stanford to work as an apprentice to a Norwegian boat builder. In 1972, he founded Windham Hill Builders in Palo Alto while playing music for Stanford theater productions and performing impromptu concerts in town.[3]

Windham Hill RecordsEdit

With money borrowed from friends, he recorded his first album, The Search of Turtle's Navel, later changed to In Search of the Turtle's Navel, on his own label, Windham Hill Records. The second album he released in 1976 was by his cousin, guitarist Alex De Grassi, followed by one in 1977 by his guitar teacher, Robbie Basho. He left carpentry to pursue music full time in 1980. During that year, the label received national attention because of George Winston's first album. Autumn was a solo piano album that helped define the genre of relaxing, acoustic music that Ackerman had been creating at Windham Hill. He discovered guitarist Michael Hedges at a concert in Palo Alto and immediately signed him to the label. Other musicians in the catalog were Darol Anger, Mike Marshall, Liz Story, and the band Shadowfax. In time the genre associated with Windham Hill was called New-age music.[4]

In 1982, A&M Records became Windham Hill's distributor. The label was selling millions of albums, and Ackerman became a wealthy man. Despite outward signs of success, he was diagnosed with depression. By 1984, Ackerman no longer wanted to run a large corporation. He left California for Vermont. He built Imaginary Road Studios in Dummerston, Vermont and continued to work as a producer.[4][5]

Awards and honorsEdit

Grammy Awards

    • Best New Age Album, Returning, 2004[6]
    • Nominated, Best New Age Album, Brothers, 2021[7]

Zone Music Reporter Awards

    • Album of the Year, The Gathering, 2012
    • Best Contemporary Instrumental Album, The Gathering, 2012
    • Lifetime Achievement Award, 2013
    • Album of the Year, Flow by Flow with Fiona Joy, Lawrence Blatt, and Jeff Oster, 2017
    • Best Contemporary Instrumental Album, Flow by Flow with Fiona Joy, Lawrence Blatt, and Jeff Oster, 2017[8]


  • 1976: In Search of the Turtle's Navel (Windham Hill)
  • 1977: It Takes a Year (Windham Hill)
  • 1979: Childhood and Memory (Windham Hill)
  • 1981: Passage (Windham Hill)
  • 1983: Past Light (Windham Hill)
  • 1986: Conferring with the Moon (Windham Hill)
  • 1988: Imaginary Roads (Windham Hill)
  • 1992: The Opening of Doors (Windham Hill)
  • 1998: Sound of Wind Driven Rain (Windham Hill)
  • 2001: Hearing Voices (Windham Hill)
  • 2004: Returning (Decca)
  • 2008: Meditations (Lifescapes)
  • 2010: New England Roads[9]
  • 2017: Flow [10]
  • 2021: Brothers[11]


  • 1993: A Windham Hill Retrospective (Windham Hill)
  • 2006: Pure Will Ackerman (Windham Hill)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Ruhlmann, William. "Will Ackerman". AllMusic. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
  2. ^ Tom Casciato. "Stanford Carpenter Runs Record Label."The Stanford (CA) Daily, November 15, 1977, p. 4.
  3. ^ "Producing Music for the Heart". Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate. May 2, 1984. p. 8B.
  4. ^ a b Berkowitz, Kenny (October 11, 2016). "In the Age of Disco, Windham Hill Founder Will Ackerman Helped Solo-Acoustic Guitar Thrive". Acoustic Guitar. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
  5. ^ Bolles, Dan. "In the Studio With Windham Hill Founder Will Ackerman". Seven Days. Retrieved June 25, 2019.
  6. ^ "Will Ackerman". GRAMMY.com. May 22, 2018. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
  7. ^ "2022 GRAMMYs Awards: Complete Nominations List". GRAMMY.com. November 23, 2021. Retrieved November 26, 2021.
  8. ^ "2017 ZMR Music Award Winners". www.zonemusicreporter.com. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
  9. ^ "Will Ackerman". AllMusic. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
  10. ^ "FLOW". AllMusic. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
  11. ^ Widran, Jonathan (July 5, 2021). "WILL ACKERMAN, JEFF OSTER, TOM EATON, Brothers". Music Reviews - JWV. Retrieved July 18, 2021.

External linksEdit