You know that kid in 4th grade who was overly excited to read out loud in class, and when chosen, read with ultimate inflection and feeling, complete with dramatic pauses? Yeah. That was me.
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I feel free and exhilarated while doing voice overs. In my fantasy, I could live in my sound booth and my husband and two daughters could visit often, bringing me fresh squeezed orange juice and Duncan Hines brownies. I was the official voice of the Sprout network for 10 years, and the voice of Verizon 411 for 8 years. Other valued clients include IKEA, Vanguard, Crayola, Xfinity on Demand, Hershey Park, and Visa Card to name a few. In the audiobook world, my specialty is young adult fiction where I am an Audiofile Earphones Award winner and two time Audie Award nominee. (View her website.)
Can you tell us a little about being a voice actor? How did you get started?
As a professional voice actor, I provide voices for TV and radio commercials, educational videos, cartoons, documentaries, and audio books.
In grade school, when the teacher asked for volunteers to read out loud, I was that kid who’s hand shot up in the air. I fell in love with community theater in middle school, and by high school I had quit the cheerleading squad because practice was interfering with play rehearsals. After getting a degree in Theater from DeSales University, I got my first voice over job through Charlie, a voice actor who ended up being a wonderful mentor to me. We’d both gone through the DeSales University theater program, and although he’d graduated many years before me, he came to see all the plays at the university, and got to know the current students. Charlie had just arrived at a recording studio in Philadelphia and the young woman he was supposed to read with cancelled at the last minute. He called me and said “How soon can you be here?” 20 minutes later I was doing my first voice over job. I remember being so nervous, but loving it. After that, my career snowballed from there.
What is the thing you dislike the most in running your business? What is the best thing? What are the biggest challenges?
The best thing is the work itself. I feel very free and creative in the booth. I find my work fun and invigorating.
I think the biggest challenge over the years has been learning to become my own sound engineer. 17 years ago, when I began doing voice over work, very little work was being done in home studios. Now, to be a real player in the voice over world, you’ve got to have a home studio. I think of myself as much more an artist than a technical person, and so there was definitely a learning curve to becoming my own sound engineer. Also, as I work more and more out of my home studio, I really miss interacting with my clients face-to-face. However, the upside of having a home studio is that you can do a job for anyone in the world, so your potential for work is hugely expanded.
Which of your work are you most proud of and why?
Being the voice of the Sprout network for the first 10 years of its existence is something I’m proud of. I think we created a wonderful sound for Sprout that was warm and welcoming for both preschool children and their parents. I’m also proud of much of the audio book work I did. Audio book work really stretches your skills as a voice actor. The first book I narrated had 41 characters!
How has becoming a mom changed how you work?
My time feels so much more precious than it used to, so I’ve had to adjust my lifestyle to make sure I have enough time to take good care of myself, my family, and my work. I love narrating audio books, but I’ve taken a temporary hiatus from them because they are so time consuming. I also really enjoy coaching newcomers to the voice over world, but I can now only take on 2 clients at a time.
Do you have any tips, resources, or tools for managing work/life balance?
A minimalist approach to “stuff” is one of the main keys to keeping me balanced. Organization and beauty are important to me in my living space. Realistically, with a toddler and a 3 month old baby, the house isn’t always going to look lovely with everything in its place. However, I’ve found that if we are very conscious about what we choose to own, and get rid of things that are unnecessary, its a lot easier to keep and restore order. I keep a Goodwill bag near our front door, and I add something to the bag nearly every day. A disorganized, cluttered home just doesn’t work for me. I feel much more open to creativity when I have lots of clear space, so I make that a priority.
What creative activities do you like to do with your kid(s)?
My daughter Violet is 2 1/2 and baby June is 4 months. I’m definitely looking forward to more creativity as they continue to get older. For right now, Violet loves to sing and we have little performances for each other, and I’m impressed by her sense of pitch! She also loves to help me garden and bake.
Do you have any advice for moms thinking about taking the plunge into the voice over world?
The voice over world is highly competitive, and no one I know succeeded overnight, so plan to be in it for the long haul. It’s definitely a career that you have to “break into.” That being said, if you stick it out, the lifestyle is pretty wonderful.
One of the misconceptions about voice actors is that they’re all people with spectacular sounding voices. Most of us, however, have pretty normal sounding voices, but we know how to use our voices really well. Voice acting is much more about acting than anything else. If you don’t have an acting background, my first suggestion would always be to take an acting class. Improv acting classes are particularly good for voice over because you’ll practice thinking quickly on your feet, which voice over jobs often require. After mastering some acting skills, find a reputable voice over artist who also does coaching to help you figure out the ins and outs of the business.
How did you manage the day-to-day process of making your art/working/etc. with children?
I am very lucky because my mother is retired and close by. She is a huge help with my children, often at the last minute. It isn’t unusual for me to get an audition or job that needs to be completed within a few hours. It’s a very competitive market, so you really have to be ready to audition or work at any time during the weekdays. You never know when one audition could lead to years of work.
Fill in the Blank
If I could have a super power, it would be Teleporting, so that I could travel abroad quickly and easily.
A famous person I would love to meet: Thich Nhat Hanh
Elizabeth Gilbert inspires me.
If I weren’t a voice over artist, I’d be a real estate flipper. I just tore out our kitchen backsplash and re-tiled it myself. I like hands on projects and working with power tools.
If I had an extra 2 hours in the day, I’d read more books, meditate more, and spend more time in the garden.