Within the Sound of my Voice
By Warren E. Garling | October 2007
They come from all walks of life, from all over the country, with all kinds of life experience. But there are two things most of the students of the Schenectady-based Voice Coaches voice over training course have in common: They’ve been told all their adult lives that they have a great voice and now, they’ve decided, is the time to do something with it.
Many students of the four-part course haven’t been students, in the strict sense of the word, in more than 40 years. They are professionals looking to begin a new chapter in their lives as retirement approaches. They’ve worked as teachers, librarians, radio dispatchers, chemical company salesmen and, well, you name it, they’ve been there and done that. Even bought the tee shirt.
Why voice acting?
“Because kids who are now in their teens come back to me and say they remember enjoying my voice when I read to them in the library when they were little.”
“Because the guys at work say my voice sounds so professional on the public address system that I should be getting paid to talk.”
“Because for years my kids have been enjoying the voices I do when reading their favorite stories to them. I think I can imitate most of the Muppets.”
“Because I’ve always thought it would be a fun business to get into.”
Professional Voice Acting is quite different from, let’s say, a career in broadcasting. Voice Acting is a dramatic art and Voice Actors, similar to other actors in stage, film, and television, are hired or “cast” in roles that are specific to their individual voice strengths.
What’s caused this sudden upsurge in interest in voice over training? First, the voice over business has changed considerably in the past 20 to 30 years. It used to be that the commercials we watched on TV and listened to on the radio were done by the deep-voiced, silver-tongued “announcer.” Increasingly, today’s commercials are more conversational and feature real people with real voices. It’s also about a 50/50 mix of male vs. female today.
But that’s only a part of the reason the baby boomers are venturing into the burgeoning business of voice acting. Commercial work makes up only a small portion of the voice over opportunities currently presenting themselves – perhaps as little as ten percent. Today, the majority of steady voice work is found in business and corporate videos and presentations, automated telephone voicemail systems, video games, educational videos, character voices for animation features, podcasts, and the list goes on.
One of the fastest growing segments of the voice over market is audio books. More than 4,000 are published each year, and one industry expert predicts that number will increase six-fold in just the next four years thanks to the success of downloadable audiobooks on the Internet. There is a demand for all types of voices, and who’s to say your voice isn’t the one a publisher is looking for?
You can also credit computerization and micro-technology with some of the growth. Gone are the days of needing a studio with a large audio mixing console and huge tape recorders. While the majority of work is still done in a professional setting, latch on to a laptop with digital audio software like Apple’s Garage Band (standard with your new MacBook) and a microphone that plugs directly into the USB port and you’re ready to go. Then you e-mail the finished audio file to the person who hired you after hearing your voice samples on your own web site.
But, as always, a good education and training is the key. The continuing success of Voice Coaches, started more than ten years ago by David and Anna Bourgeois, is a testament to the hard work of a handful of full-time employees with first-hand voice acting experience. All of the training is done from the Schenectady studios of White Lake Music & Post, some in-person, some through distance training done on the studio’s digital phone link system – the same system the professionals at White Lake use to record voice overs for programs seen on HGTV, The Learning Channel, the WE Network and Discovery Channel.
It’s not for every good voice, because as with most things in life, there’s a lot of hard work involved in building a successful business. But one thing is for sure. In the voice acting business, age is truly just a number. It’s not how old or young you are – it’s how old or young you can sound.
The author has been making a living with his voice on local radio and television and as a voice over artist since he started on Schenectady’s old WSNY radio in 1969 as “Jesse James.” He still uses a radio air name, Chris Warren, weekends on Oldies 98.3/WTRY.
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