by Long Hwa-Shu for the News Sun

HLONG@SCN1.COM

For the fourth year in a row, Joan Hammel, singer and songwriter from Wildwood, has been nominated for the Entertainer of the Year by the Chicago Music Awards.

The nomination put her in the same category of such celebrated performers as Kanye West, R. Kelly and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Mavis Staples. 

"I am very thrilled to get the call," said Hammel, a graduate of the College of Lake County and Columbia College.

"Each year I correctly predicted who the winner was going to be, but not me," she added modestly.


Hammel was nominated by a committee of several hundred music industry insiders based on quality of performances among other criteria.

She has performed professionally for years and has cut several compact discs through Paxton Productions, a studio she owns.  Hammel made a name for herslef as the voice behind "America," a CD with songs in memory of the 9/11 attacks in New York.  The proceeds went to the victims of the terrorist attacks.

But her first CD is "joanland," for which she wrote all but two of the 11 original songs.  The album was nominated in 2005 for a Grammy Award.  In 2004, she was invited by the Pentagon to entertain U.S. Troops at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.  A graduate of Warren Township High School, she was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame for her music achievements.

"Two thousand seven was my busiest year yet with bookings, and I'm looking forward to an exciting 2008," she said.

Hammel has been chosen by the Robert M. MacNamara Foundation of Las Vegas for its 2008 composer-in-residence program.  She said she will travel to Maine, to work on new music for six weeks.

"I have a notebook full of ideas.  I hope I don't get writer's block," she said jokingly.

The winner of the Enterainer of the Year Award will be announced Jan. 27 at the awards show at Park West in Chicago.