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|Born||November 16, 1949|
|Genres||New-age, jazz, pop|
|Musician, record producer|
|Labels||Windham Hill, Imaginary Road, Lifescapes|
Ackerman was born in Palo Alto, California. His adoptive father was a professor of English at Stanford University. 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.
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.
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 and continued to work as a producer.
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