The Voice That Keeps On Giving

Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning. – Maya Angelou

Looking for that perfect, one-of-a-kind gift for someone special?

How about: your voice?

Our ability to employ speech to express human emotion is a gift. We are empowered to tell stories, make someone laugh, or buy something they didn’t even think they wanted. Unique as a fingerprint, the human voice –  a wondrous result of individual physiology, environment and background – vibrates to the world who we are.

How about sharing some of those good vibes to make the world sound a little more human?

VocalID, a global voice bank based in greater Boston, needs voices of all kinds for the over ten million people who live without speech. Many have lost the ability to speak due to Multiple Sclerosis, ALS, or throat cancer. Others were born without a voice as a result of cerebral palsy, or other neurological disorders.

For decades, iconic, and electronic sounding text to speech devices, made famous by Stephen Hawking, have helped people to express themselves. Its one-voice-fits-all limitation doesn’t reflect the diversity of personalities, ages, gender and emotions and attitudes.

Crowdsourcing 14 thousand speakers from over 110 countries, VocalID uses their sound-blending technology ‘to create a unique vocal persona for any device that turns text into speech.’

All kinds of speakers are needed, and you don’t have to be a voice actor to record a few hours of phrases. Children and teen voices are a particular need, so if you know any young’uns’, round them up, and point them to a microphone.

VocalID founder, Rupal Patel’s excellent TED talk provides more information, and compelling examples of how lives change when a person is given voice.

Check out, or contact me if you’re interested in contributing.

Let’s make the world sound a little more human, and change a life, one voice at a time.


Work Your VO Sweet Spot

You can’t be everything to everybody. A truism because it’s, you know, true. In life, we are many things to a variety of people: Spouse, partner, parent, sibling, employee, manager, cook, athlete, artist, voice actor. It’s exhilarating. And exhausting. Why do we insist on being some many things in our voice careers when, let’s face it, we’re only really excellent at one, and pretty good at a couple other things?

All that time spent pitching jobs we perform adequately, if not brilliantly,  might be better spent unearthing projects – some right in our own back yard – that best flaunt our  talent, and better suit  our unique sensibilities.  Streamline and simplify.  In other words, find your niche.

Maybe it’s time to take stock, assess what you excel at, invest your energy to promote your money-maker. What’s your voice over sweet spot? Quirky characters? Amazing storytelling,  and endurance for audio books? A trusted, approachable way with big word pharma projects? Go with that. Focused attention, and intention showcase your VO excellence, and not only make you an expert, but the go-to person for that genre. Their voice over super hero. Dazzle them with what’s already in your wheelhouse.

A probate lawyer doesn’t take on a capital murder case. An orthopedic surgeon isn’t the person to see for a mammogram. Specialists: A group elevated to coveted ‘best of list’ and cult-like loyalty. Like my colorist: Absolute genius with lowlights. And worth every penny.

In a world of middling generalists, be a specialist. Find your sweet spot. Do what you do best. Then tell everyone about it.

Boston area marketing maven, Evelyn Starr helps brands that are ‘stuck in adolescence,’ those businesses going through a mid-career crisis. I’d like to pass on her brilliance with this link on why it’s important to find your niche. Enjoy

The Thrill of Victory

“I found these in the front yard.” My son, grass stained, and sweaty from mowing the lawn, dangled a heavy set of keys, and dropped them into my hand. Among myriad car and house keys was half of a small plastic bar code card, its other half probably chewed away by the blades of our lawn mower. I recognized the logo on the other side as that of my local yoga studio.

Checking into class that evening, I handed the keys to the studio manager, and told him the story. On my way out of class, he stopped me, and said, “Hey, we found the owner of the keys, and he left you this.”

He slid a small envelope across the counter addressed to me.

The relieved owner, who’d been separated from his keys for three weeks, thanked us, and mentioned a time he’d found someone else’s keys on the high school field, and tracked down the owner. He hoped someone would experience the same ‘thrill of victory’ in finding his keys, and pay the kindness forward.

The thrill of victory. In our business, we often think about it in terms of what we get, and not what we give. Book the gig. Win over a client. Receive an award. Amazing accomplishments, but not necessarily daily occurrences. A typical day may not present ‘the thrill of victory.’

It could.

Show some client love and appreciation with a small gift, or email of gratitude. Encourage an emerging or struggling colleague. Refer another voice actor for a job you’re neither available, nor appropriate. The client will view you as connected and smart, and you’ll get that warm, toasty feeling of lifting up another voice actor. Which may be reciprocated in the future. Win-win-win.

Have a resource you can share? Studio hack, fabulous editor, amazing coach: share it. All that talk of a rising tide? It’s a thing.

Offer your voice to a cause or organization that does good. These days we can use all the positivity we can get.

The richness of our day is not defined solely by our bookings. The thrill of victory can be found in a variety of big and small moments in our day. Are you feeling it?



Voice Over by the Numbers

If you’re one in a million, there are at least 7,500 people just like you. So goes the joke/factoid.

I thought about it as I recently perused a P2P site, which advertised access to ‘over 200,000 voice actors.’

Still feel like buying that Powerball ticket?

If mere numbers don’t make question your pursuit of this business, consider the recent merger in the voice over world. Apparently, many actors have, and it’s raising the anxiety level to code red levels.

It need not.

I applaud the recent move by over a dozen agents to create the VO Agent Alliance to show support and belief that what we do is a profession. So let’s treat it as one. What resonates in particular is the spirit of their mission. ‘If you build it, they will come.’ Yes, I often reference films, and pop culture. Get used to it.

My career was blessed with some early success, due to booking a few big jobs, and several generous colleagues who referred my work to clients. That’s one way to do it, but really you need a several prong approach, which often includes doing things you might not consider as ‘creative.’ As a former broadcaster, I was much more into the ‘art’ of the business, but not so much the business of the art.

What a rude awakening to find out you have to treat this thing like a business to sustain it. No agent, no P2P, no well-meaning colleague is going to make us successful, although a combination of all those things are essential to succeed.

The world only turns one way, and we turn with it. One day, at the start of the millennium, as I whined about the digitization of the business, a colleague said, ‘The train is leaving the station, whether you’re on it, or not.’ These days I enjoy the crowded platform upon which we all stand, and discover new ways to travel.

Some days I ride that train, others I’m building my own track, and provide a fun and interesting journey to a fabulous destination.

Where are you going?



Starting Up – Again

In 2004, after working years in radio, I decided to become a full-time voice actor.

A perfect solution to creating work-life balance, the career allowed me to record several hours a day, and be home when my two sons returned from school.  My talented and generous voiceover friend Jeff Berlin provided advice and direction on home studio set up.

I hired an engineer to sound treat a small room in our drafty New England home, installed a Telos, hooked up an mBox, and purchased a couple of mics. With my mantra, ‘If you build it, they will come,’ and a few big auditions, I booked a couple of major projects.  Those, and the smaller ‘bread and butter’ gigs put me on the path of full-time employment.

A funny thing happened on my way to professional and financial bliss. As with any relationship, I became complacent, took voiceover for granted.  Those early years of sending clients holiday greetings, having chatty phone conversations, meeting and greeting my tribe gradually fell off.  My reads got stale. My website, shiny and new in 2010 now felt, and looked so – 2010.  It was the digital equivalent of wearing sweats and a scrunchy.

You probably know where this is heading.

Business hit a plateau.  Professional development stagnated.  As I reflected on how I ended up in this professional cul-de-sac, my Puritanical work ethic urged.  ‘Let’s roll up the sleeves and start again.  After all, it’s spring, the time of new beginnings.’   So I did what I usually do when confronted with the prospect embarking upon a brave, new venture.  I procrastinated.

When that strategy failed, I put together a long to-do list, punctuated with the directive ‘Get Professional Help.’   Because even top-ranking CEO’s know when it’s time to call in their trusty Board of Directors.  Why not someone who spends her days in a padded room talking to herself?

Enter Joyce Castellanos:  Voice coach, earth mother, warm hug of a human being who believed in me even when I didn’t.  Dave Walsh, voice talent and teacher preaches truth telling, a voice over relationship essential.  Since Dave and I share a Bostonians skepticism, we know better than to BS each other. So there’s that, too.

A couple of months later, with refreshed demos, savvy advice and moral support from the fabulous Celia Siegel, and upgraded website courtesy of Denise Biondo’s fantastic vision, it’s not only a reboot. It’s the start of a beautiful relationship.