Owner & Artistic Director
Manda Chelmak has been a director as long as she can remember. As a child growing up in southern Ontario, she would put her cousins in front of the camera, dressed in grass skirts, to sing The Lion Sleeps Tonight. After high school, she headed west to Nanaimo to pursue a degree in the arts at Vancouver Island University, where she discovered the theatre program. An honours student, Chelmak was selected by her peers and her classmates to receive the theatre program’s two awards. She specialized in stage management and production, working on VIU’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Oresteia.
After university, Chelmak worked for Red Room Studio for a year, when she was offered the opportunity to take over the company. Her first production at the helm was Aesop’s Fables, followed by performances of Alice in Wonderland, Cats and the Little Mermaid among more than two dozen productions in the past 10 seasons.
Chelmak’s goal has always been to boost the confidence and self-esteem in each of her students, so she started Rock School to reach music students playing on their own and connect them with others passionate about music. Using her connections in the music industry, Chelmak assembled professional musicians to pass on their knowledge and experiences playing in a band.
Chelmak is also involved in community events, producing Thrill the World, a mass dance of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and the Multicultural Festival. She was also involved in producing, organizing and execution of the Summertime Blues Festival and Bite of Nanaimo, the annual fundraiser for TheatreOne. As the 13th season for Headliners approaches, Chelmak has no end to ideas to excite and inspire music and theatre students for years to come.
Scott Brown was just a four-year-old kid in Winnipeg, Man., when his dad, Ross, first taught him to play guitar. Not long after the family moved West to Nanaimo, B.C., did Brown find himself front and centre to a number of popular Vancouver Island bands.
Brown’s journey with Canadian rock band Trooper began as bass player, singer and songwriter for the Paul Laine band, which was managed by Bruce Allen – known for representing Bryan Adams, Loverboy and Michael Buble – and toured with Joe Satriani and Richard Marx. While recording Stick it in Your Ear, Brown had the opportunity to work with producer Bruce Fairbairn, who also produced albums for Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, AC/DC and more. The Paul Laine Band led to New York City and a new gig with glam rock band Danger Danger. It was in the Big Apple that Paul Laine Band alumni and fellow Nanaimo resident, Gogo, introduced Brown to Trooper, which he has toured with ever since.
When he’s not on the road with Trooper, Brown performs with The Bill Perison Trio, singing crooner hits of the 1940s and ‘50s from singers like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Dean Martin. Brown is also a singer-songwriter, performing with just an acoustic guitar. He plans to record these songs soon.
For more information, please visit www.trooper.com.
In high school, Todd Sacerty wanted to play the drums, but his teacher handed him the bass instead. Winning two gold medals for Canada with Nanaimo District Secondary School’s jazz band showed it was the right choice, and Sacerty headed to Malaspina University-College and focused on jazz and music history. Less than a year after graduating, Sacerty hit the road with blues musician David Gogo and the Persuaders, touring North America and Europe with Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Jeff Healy and more.
Sacerty was a founding member of the disco band Wunderbread, which toured extensively through Canada and the U.S. for several years. He also played with the likes of Jerry Doucette, Jason Buie, The Tina Jones Band, Gerry Barnum and more. Sacerty is also a sought-after session musician, who recorded albums with the Irish Rovers, David Gogo and others.
Sacerty’s current project is Big River, the Johnny Cash tribute band, where he plays – what else – bass and acts as road manager. He plays both electric and upright bass, with the ability to learn music by ear. When not on stage, Sacerty is likely at the rink playing hockey.
For more information, please visit www.johnnycashtribute.ca.
When Canadian rock band The Odds decided to reunite 10 years ago, there was one person they called to join them. Murray Atkinson – guitarist, keyboard player and singer-songwriter – worked nightly with The Odds members Pat Steward and Doug Elliott in a British-rock house band Radio One at Vancouver’s famed Cellar nightclub. They asked Atkinson to help out on guitar but soon became a full-fledged member of the band.
Atkinson grew up in Ladysmith, B.C., in a musical family that inspired him to become an accomplished classical pianist. He picked up the guitar at the same time, and rose to local prominence in the mid-90s with the band Playground. He followed his musical dream to Vancouver and found work as a session and live guitarist, working with Chin Injeti, from the group Bass is Base, who mentored Atkinson in hip hop, R&B and funk. With Injeti, Atkinson opened for Colin James, which is where he struck up a friendship with members of The Odds.
In addition to his work in The Odds, Atkinson continues to write and record his own music with producer/engineer Paul Silveira at Vancouver’s legendary Armoury Studios. His song, El Camino, earned a Platinum Award in 2007 CFOX Vancouver Seeds competition. With his winnings, Atkinson recorded Salt March under the band name Swan and released the single Unfamiliar, which spent seven weeks in CFOX’s Top 10. Atkinson also won the Rock/Alt category of the 2012 USA Songwriting Competition.
For more information, please visit www.murrayatkinson.com.
Leslie Hopps DeSchutter
Leslie and her family recently moved to Nanaimo from Vancouver.
She has been married for 16 years to her best friend, Thomas and together they proudly homeschool their awesome twin daughters, Tatum & Brook.
The family is passionate about creating a life they love, embracing quiet moments and laughing with full self-expression.
Leslie has been involved in the performing arts for over 30 years. She has numerous film and television credits as an actress including roles on SUPERNATURAL, THE HAUNTING HOUR and most recently HBO’s GIRLFRIENDS GUIDE TO DIVORCE.
Leslie has performed on numerous stages throughout Canada including: The Charlottetown Festival (Prince Edward Island) Theatre Calgary, Edmonton’s Mayfield Theatre, The Richmond Gateway, Jericho Arts Centre and The Vancouver Fringe Festival.
Leslie studied acting at The Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in New York City as well as with acclaimed acting coaches Larry Moss and Joe Palese.
She has taught acting and improv to both children and adults through The Vancouver Academy of Dramatic Arts, The Jewish Community Centre and the Singin’ Dancin’ Actin’ Studio.
A newcomer to the Island, Christie, her husband and their two young children moved here recently from Ontario for a new adventure! With her, she brings a passion for musical theatre and performance.
Christie began performing when she was 4; singing for church congregations and small private functions and hasn’t stopped.
An elementary music teacher by profession, Christie graduated with honours from the Classical Voice, Fine Arts Program at York University before completing her Bachelor of Education at Brock University.
Christie has been teaching voice, instrumental and musical theatre for the last 15 years. She has been involved in many musicals, in both on-stage and off-stage roles.
Christie loves working with children of all ages and believes that they benefit so much from music and theatre programs. She is very excited and can’t wait to create magic on stage with the talented youth and staff at Headliners!