|Birth: ||Oct. 10, 1934|
|Death: ||Jan. 10, 2013|
In 40 years as a music teacher, Stanley M. Ackerman inspired many of his students to pursue careers as professional musicians and worked to provide broader opportunities for his students to perform and teach.
Mr. Ackerman taught at Willowbrook High School in Villa Park, then for 15 years at New Trier High School in Winnetka, where he oversaw a full symphony orchestra dedicated to standard classical repertoire, a chamber orchestra and two string orchestras. Mr. Ackerman spent weekends coaching chamber music ensembles at what is now the Chicago Institute of Music.
Mr. Ackerman, 78, died of kidney failure Friday, Jan. 11, at his Lake Forest home, said his son Bruce.
Instead of using simplified arrangements, Mr. Ackerman led his students in the same full arrangements performed by professional orchestras.
"He said if you give students good music, students would always, always rise to the occasion," said Alison Peters Fujito, a violinist with the Pittsburgh Symphony and a student of Mr. Ackerman's at New Trier. "That's how he got us to play at such an amazing level."
Mr. Ackerman's former students play professionally in symphony orchestras across the United States and in Europe, Fujito said.
In addition to teaching, Mr. Ackerman performed in Chicago as a violinist in the Grant Park Symphony and managed the group for three seasons. He also played violin in the Lyric Opera's orchestra during the 1957-1958 season.
Born and raised in Waukegan, Mr. Ackerman took up the violin at age 5, and graduated from Waukegan High School. He earned a bachelor's degree in music from Northwestern University in 1956 and a master's degree in music from the Eastman School of Music several years later. While at Eastman, he played viola with the Rochester Philharmonic Symphony in New York.
Mr. Ackerman considered a career as a professional musician and was offered a chair in the St. Louis Symphony's viola section. However, he chose the security of a teaching career and began teaching music at Willowbrook High School when it opened in 1959.
In 1966, Mr. Ackerman shifted to New Trier. He immediately began expanding the school's music program, increasing its number of orchestras and requiring students to play challenging works from artists like Gustav Mahler and Igor Stravinsky.
"He really was the backbone of the music program at New Trier," said Camille Avellano, a former student of Mr. Ackerman's who has been a violinist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 31 years. "It was really remarkable for a public high school to have so many orchestras. It was like a conservatory, but it was a high school. I consider myself lucky to have that much exposure."
Another former student at New Trier, WFMT-FM program director and overnight host Peter van de Graaff, recalled Mr. Ackerman as a demanding educator with high standards.
"I remember him in many ways as a frightening taskmaster but as a man who also allowed us to feel the love that he had for music and to share in that love, too," van de Graaff said. "Not a day goes by that I don't think of him and something I learned from him. He held us to a very high standard and expected a great deal of us. We had to rise to his standards."
Mark Kraemer, a bass player in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, said the lessons Mr. Ackerman taught his students applied to all kinds of learning.
"He wanted us to have high standards and always feel, as he did, that we shouldn't be satisfied with just getting through and doing a fairly good job," Kraemer said. "He believed that we could get very close to a professional standard and we shouldn't be satisfied with anything else."
After 15 years at New Trier, Mr. Ackerman moved to Los Angeles to try his hand as a freelance musician in the entertainment industry. He played for several movies, and became friends with actor Dudley Moore, who was also a musician. He appeared briefly in the Tom Hanks movie "The Man With One Red Shoe."
"He always had this bug that he wanted to go to California and play for the studios," said Mr. Ackerman's wife of 53 years, Charlene.
After several years of performing for various TV shows and awards shows, Mr. Ackerman and his wife returned to the North Shore in 1985. He accepted a position in his hometown of Waukegan, teaching violin and viola in a private studio and also conducting an orchestra at Andrew Cooke Magnet Elementary School in Waukegan and other schools.
Mr. Ackerman developed a "strolling strings" orchestra, in which violinists and violists actually performed while walking leisurely through the audience.
"We would participate not only in traditional orchestras in and out of school, but he'd also get us gigs," said Jaime Rukstales, a former Cooke student who now teaches violin. "He showed us what it was like to play out in the world."
For the past 16 years, Mr. Ackerman had been on kidney dialysis. Despite that challenge, he maintained a strong sense of humor, said his son Michael.
"He was the most serious music teacher and musician, but he also had a real funny sense of humor," said Michael Ackerman, a high school music teacher.
Mr. Ackerman also is survived by two grandchildren.
Services were held.
Created by: Arturo Lara
Record added: Jan 14, 2013
Find A Grave Memorial# 103580536