The Music Man: Bill Hamm

June 21, 2017

Bill Hamm grew up in Southern Ontario and studied music at the University of Winnipeg (B.A.), attended Canadian Mennonite University (B.R.S.), followed by the University of Illinois (M.A.) where he majored in Choral Conducting. Bill has been Rosebud School of the Arts’ and Rosebud Theatre’s Music Director since 1989. He conducts choirs, teaches voice and speech classes, and has directed the music for many shows including 'The Spitfire Grill', 'Cotton Patch Gospel', 'Quilters', 'Amahl and the Night Visitors', 'Godspell', and 'Fiddler on the Roof'. Bill is the composer and music director of The Canadian Badlands Passion Play and sings with the Canadian Chamber Choir (2016 Juno nomination). Bill and his wife Renita have four children and two grandchildren. Bill enjoys running, mountain biking, hockey, and home renovations.

Bill Hamm, Music Director Rosebud Theatre and Rosebud School of the Arts.

What first drew you to Rosebud and what made you stay?

I came because I had seen a show in the summer of 1987, and liked the vibe and world-view of the place. After getting my Masters degree in the spring of ’89, I asked if they might be looking for a Music Director. They were, and the rest is history. I had chances to leave for other jobs, but felt in my gut that I should stay. I was curious to see what this would become.

Bill Hamm surrounded by cast in Rosebud Theatre's Cotton Patch Gospel (2013). Photo by Morris Ertman.

Describe what your job entails?

As Music Director, I oversee music activities in the school and theatre. I’ve played on my strengths and interests as a choral director; we have five choirs based out of Rosebud! I’ve also been interested in in Folk, Bluegrass, etc… When another Music Director comes, they will shape the program to their strengths and interests. I train singers for the stage and for musical performance by working breath, resonance, and articulation in order to execute the craft of tempo, dynamics, and articulation, and a wide expressive range.

What’s the first thing you do when approaching a musical production?

I scan the script and make up a matrix to see which singers/characters are in which song. As I do this, I learn the songs for myself, and imagine what kind of singer we need for each character and each song.

A secret shot of Bill doing his thing. Photo by Lauren Hamm Photography

What do you find most challenging about the process?

Adapting the instrumentation to suit our limited resources. For example: we can’t hire the full orchestra that the piece is scored for, so we adapt to whom we can hire.

What’s the most rewarding?

Releasing the show into the hands/voices of the performers.

Is there an opportunity you haven't had (in the theatre) that’s on your bucket list?

A major kick-ass fight! (Can we say “kick-ass”?) Kick-butt.

Your last name seems to invite puns… If you had to pick a favorite nickname…?

Hammer. Billy.

(Editor’s note: very James Bond. “My name is Hammer. Billy Hammer”)

In three words, how would you describe the music for ‘The Spitfire Grill?’

Storytelling. Ensemble. Expressive.

What advice would you give your 20 year-old self?

Spend more time preparing. Don’t trust your ability, education, experience. It’s in the mundane preparation that the magic happens.

Go-to shower song?

Lobet Den Herrn by J.S. Bach. The Tenor Part.

If you could give everyone advice about music and/or their voice, what would your distilled lesson be?

If you really want to sing with confidence and a wide expressive range, join a choir.

It's the whole Hamm family! Their genuine love and diverse giftings make Rosebud the loveliest Hamm-let around. Photo by Lauren Hamm Photography.

Special thanks to Lauren Hamm Photography for spectacular Bill photos. Check out her website and witness her extraordinary ability to capture the light in and around others.

The Music Man: Bill Hamm

Photo Release >