William Ackerman

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William Ackerman
Born (1949-11-16) November 16, 1949 (age 70)
GenresNew-age, jazz, pop[1]
Occupation(s)Musician, record producer
Years active1976–present
LabelsWindham Hill, Imaginary Road, Lifescapes
Associated actsFlow

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


Early years[edit]

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 Records[edit]

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 honors[edit]

Grammy Awards

  • Best New Age Album, Returning, 2004[6]

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[7]


  • 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[8]
  • 2017 Flow [9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Ruhlmann, William. "Will Ackerman". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 June 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. 1984-05-02. p. 8B.
  4. ^ a b Berkowitz, Kenny (11 October 2016). "In the Age of Disco, Windham Hill Founder Will Ackerman Helped Solo-Acoustic Guitar Thrive". Acoustic Guitar. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  5. ^ Bolles, Dan. "In the Studio With Windham Hill Founder Will Ackerman". Seven Days. Retrieved 2019-06-25.
  6. ^ "Will Ackerman". GRAMMY.com. 22 May 2018. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  7. ^ "2017 ZMR Music Award Winners". www.zonemusicreporter.com. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  8. ^ "Will Ackerman". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  9. ^ "FLOW". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 June 2018.

External links[edit]