People Behind the Music

Behind The Music: Will Ackerman with Relaxing Music

By Angela Bird
“My Stock In Trade Is Emotion” - Will Ackerman

Will Ackerman has been making and playing meditative guitar music for more than four decades. His early days of selling his music on cassette around campus at Stanford University have led him on a winding journey that’s taken him to all corners of the globe, working with musicians across every genre, touching the hearts of fans all around the world.

The Birth and Evolution of New Age Music

Will Ackerman is a pioneer of what has been described as downtempo acoustic guitar music.

In the late 1970s, Will was the bleeding edge of what has been called “new age” music. Music that’s not folk or pop, not jazz or rock; it’s acoustic guitar music that didn’t have a classification at the time. In 1976, Will founded Windham Hill Music, a recording label that signed artists that defied categorization. Recalling his time with Windham Hill, Will said, “I’m proud of the fact that I created a space in which a group of artists could be utterly themselves.”

Windham Hill Music soared in popularity through the 80s and 90s, signing dozens of unique artists, generating a wide-ranging discography, and selling millions of copies worldwide. Windham Hill Music became “the literal poster-child of New Age Music.” (Facebook). In interviews, Will has eschewed the term New Age. New Age became a grab-bag for any low-key, relaxing instrumental music, whether it was produced by a studio or in someone’s bedroom, and over time it began to include moody electronic music and vocal artists. As the genre’s popularity ballooned, Will took a step back and sold his interest in Windham Hill in 1992.

Since then, Will has continued to produce and compose music, working with artists like Alex deGrassi, George Winston, Michael Hedges, Liz Story, among many others. His work as a composer and a producer were nominated for 6 Grammy awards. His 2004 album titled “Returning” won the 2005 Grammy for “Best New Age Album.” In an interview with Robert von Bernewitz, Will told the story of how he found out that he had won the Grammy. He and his wife Suzy were having dinner at their favorite Montreal restaurant when Will received a call from the Head of Universal Classic Jazz telling him that he had won a Grammy! Will returned to the table with tears in his eyes, ecstatic about the news. The restaurant owner, a friend of theirs, “ended up opening champagne for everybody in the restaurant. He said, ‘My friend has just won a Grammy!’ He didn't say who and it was really lovely.”

Find Will Ackerman on Calm Radio

Will has always been steadfast when it comes to the music he creates, saying “My music is not going to be about flash, it’s going to be about melody and emotional communication.”

His instrumental guitar music is contemplative and atmospheric while remaining approachable to newcomers of the New Age genre. A few quiet moments are enough to endear someone to this meditative, emotionally-moving relaxing music. Will Ackerman is a one-of-a-kind artist, one that Calm Radio is proud to feature on the SOLO GUITAR RELAXING MUSIC channel. Listen for free to this and many other relaxing music channels on Calm Radio here.

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