If you’ve ever heard Emily Hamel sing, you’ll agree with me that she has an outstanding voice. Her mother knew her potential from the time that she was just a young girl.
“I took voice lessons from Caroline Harder at the Chilliwack Academy of Music from the time that I was 12 until I was 19. I competed at the Lions Music Festival five years in a row and went to the provincials twice. Caroline has been a driving force in my life. She gave me confidence and I’m so grateful to her for that,” she said.
She enjoyed a rather happy childhood. Emily, along with her brother and two sisters spent a lot of time in the backyard of the family home taking part in imagination games; somewhat a foreshadowing of her future passion. She was an avid reader and admits that she could read a book in a day. “I read a lot,” she stressed. “I used to go to bed with a flashlight and just read until I couldn’t read anymore.”
Her father was quite musical and for as long as she can remember, he played in the church choir. “He also had a band in the ‘70s called ‘Noddies’. “Dad is a huge Beatles fan and his band played Beatles music and feel-good ‘70s rock. He converted the den in the basement into a recording studio and the band recorded albums there. As kids, we’d go in there and try things out,” she said with a chuckle.
At first, Emily thought that she might like to be a marine biologist but sharks terrified her. She decided to go with another plan.
“My thoughts then turned to that of becoming a vet. I realized, though, that I didn’t want to put animals down, so I gave up on that too,” she laughed.
She then turned her sights to the stage. At the age of 12, Emily became involved in singing theatre and acting as part of the Academy of Music’s Summer Theatre program. “We did scenes from Oliver and other musicals.”
At the age of 16, her father drove her to the hamlet of Rosebud, a tiny community about 35km southwest of Drumheller, nestled in a cozy river valley, winding through wheat fields and magnificent badlands. It is also a vibrant arts community visited by over 40,000 people ever year. Emily took part in Rosebud’s summer school for aspiring young actors and actresses and she was hooked.
After graduating from St. John Brebeuf high school and receiving their top art award, she headed back to Rosebud and for two years attended the Rosebud School of Performing Arts. She graduated with a diploma in performing arts and returned to the valley to attend Trinity Western University. “I took one year of general studies, choir and children’s theatre,” she explained. She was a full-time student at Trinity Western; she worked in their cafeteria to make some money and she was also travelling to Vancouver to star in a show called Chickens, a show which she has done more than 100 times.
“I decided to come back to Chilliwack and promptly started working at KFC, which is kind of funny after having performed in Chickens,” she said with a laugh.
In 2003, she took to the stage again, this time in Chilliwack. “I performed in Steel Magnolias which was a Player’s Guild production and I haven’t stopped since then,” she said.
She recently directed Sabrina Fair which was a huge success. “This was my first time as a full-time director. I had directed three, one-act plays before but not a two-act, full-cast show. I was a proud mama. The design team, the cast and crew worked so hard. It was a top-notch play,” she enthused. She also recently played the title character in the Player’s Guild’s The Drowsy Chaperone.
She created her own theatre company; Bootstrap Theatre is an offshoot of the Player’s Guild and is dedicated to providing an outlet to theatre buffs who are interested in exploring the fringe. She’s also created a photography company called The Studio and along with Amy and Richard Ogilvie and Larissa Garth, sings in a local accapella group known as Midnight Sun.
“I am happy with my life. I like where I am. I have worked at The Book Man for the last five years and I really enjoy it there. I’m also involved in community theatre and it’s what I love to do.”