Hamelin studied at the Vincent d'Indy School of Music in Montréal with Yvonne Hubert, a pupil of Cortot, then received bachelor's and master's degrees at Temple University, working under Russell Sherman and Harvey Weeden. In 1985, he launched his career with a first prize victory in the Carnegie Hall International American Music Competition. Since then, he has appeared in recital at a multitude of international venues, often with a thematically linked program of works. His solo turns with orchestras are no less far-reaching, covering major venues in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Hamelin also finds time for a few chamber music performances and recordings, with such colleagues as Jon Kimura Parker, Angela Hewitt, Angela Cheng, Midori, Angèle Dubeau, Alain Marion, Jon Vickers, the Leopold String Trio, and the Takács Quartet. His early recordings for CBC, Altarus, New World and Music & Arts labels featured music by Bolcom, Wolpe, Ives, Sorabji, and Godowsky. Hamelin then signed an exclusive contract as a Hyperion artist, and the frequencey of releases and breadth of his repertoire helped propel his star higher. Covering concertos and solo works of composers such as Alkan, Busoni, Medtner, Reger, Rzewski, Scriabin, Villa-Lobos, Weissenberg, and Grainger -- just to name a few -- his recordings have been nominated and won several prestigious awards. Compared to those composers, the sonatas of Haydn would seem too tame for Hamelin, but his 2007 volume of these was the year's best-seller for Hyperion. The 2010 release, Études, of his own compositions (bringing Hamelin even closer to the examples of Liszt and Godowsky), yielded the pianist his ninth Grammy nomination and a first prize from the German Record Critic’s Association.
Based in Boston, Hamelin received a lifetime achievement prize in 2003 from the German Record Critic’s Association, and is an Officer of the Order of Canada, a Chevalier de l’Ordre du Québec, and a member of the Royal Society of Canada.