by William Ruhlmann
William Ackerman has gained prominence both as a musician and a businessman, and at least one of those occupations seems to have been unintentional. Though Ackerman has played guitar since the age of 12, when he dropped out of college it was to become a carpenter, and his first company was called Windham Hill Builders. But Ackerman composed guitar music for Stanford University theater productions, and the encouragement of friends led him to record an album of his tunes, The Search for the Turtles Navel, in 1976. The album was surprisingly successful, and Ackerman found himself in the music business.
Since then, Ackerman has continued to record his own albums, to produce Windham Hill albums for such other artists as George Winston, Alex de Grassi, and Liz Story, and to serve in various capacities in the record company. (He stepped down as CEO in 1986; his function now primarily concerns A&R, the liaison between a record company and its artists.) Though Ackerman has long since sickened of the new-age tag, threatening physical violence against anyone categorizing Windham Hills music with the term, he has had more to do with the rise of acoustic-based instrumental music as a popular form in the 70s and 80s than anyone else.