Wineka: Thinking outside the voice box

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My voice plays on the young side of my actual age.
In fact, I could pull a 20- to 30-year-old age range, David Bourgeois told me.
“You don’t sound as old as you’re telling me you are,” he said.
I’m 54. Bourgeois was, of course, buttering me up. He knew I was writing an advance story about a class coming up later this month on “voice acting.”
The Salisbury Parks and Recreation Department is sponsoring, in conjunction with Voice Coaches of Albany, N.Y., a one-night session March 24 called “Getting Paid to Talk.” It will lay out the opportunities in voiceovers and voice acting, whether participants have the pipes for it and how to make money doing it.
Bourgeois, president and creative director of Voice Coaches, said the class will be “an upbeat, realistic introduction to the field.” It is aimed especially at people who have always been told they have a great voice.
Bourgeois said the Salisbury class “will do a good job convincing people to follow through with it, or convince them not to.”
But let’s go back to my golden voice.
From our conversation on the telephone, Bourgeois judged I have a East Coast voice with shades of Southern mixed in. (I grew up in Pennsylvania but have lived in the South for 32 years.)
But believe me, I have no future in voice acting. I stumble and mumble with words. In 28-plus years of marriage, I’ve only left the voice announcement on our answering machine once.
My wife held back on any rave reviews.
I also sound like a serial killer on the voice message I have left on my work telephone. I shun public-speaking requests. I mouth the words to songs at church as a public-service gesture, protecting the ears around me.
Bourgeois and the other coaches on his staff train aspiring voice-over artists. He also produces music, audio and voice-over content for clients who have included Discovery Networks, the Learning Channel, HGTV and the WE Network.
When most of us consider voiceovers or voice acting, we think of commercials and the people with booming, radio announcer-type voices.
But Bourgeois said commercial voiceovers make up only 10 percent “of the work out there,” and commercial opportunities are pretty flat.
The growth field for voices apparently rests with “narrative voice opportunities,” demanding a much wider range of voices.
Take, for example, the video gaming industry. Video games require vocal sound effects such as screaming, grunts, yells “and various non-verbal styles of emoting,” Voice Coaches says on its website.
While the average Hollywood movie has 2,000 lines of dialogue, a video game may have from 10,000 to 50,000 lines.
Other areas of growth for voices include audio books, training and educational videos, cable television, mobile games and applications, voicemail systems, children’s toys, animation and Internet programming.
“The field is expanding exponentially, and the main thrust is on the narrative side,” Bourgeois said. “… Our field is very niche-oriented.”
People interested in voiceovers must discover where their voices fit in. Not everyone wants to yell about used cars, Bourgeois said.
The emphasis today focuses on believability. Is the voice genuine? Is it sincere? Is it conversational?
And to have the greatest success, Voice Coaches says, a person has to treat voice acting as a small business. The company cites a report that said the average voice actor earns $47,000 annually. With advances in technology, voice acting also has become a profession where the person often can work at home yet deal with clients around the world.
“It’s not uncommon for voice actors in their 50s and 60s to easily develop a 30-year voice age range,” the Voice Coaches website says.
Maybe Bourgeois wasn’t buttering me up as much as I thought.
Around our house, we’ve always talked about my wife’s having a voice for radio and television. She’s a retired teacher whose voice carries great distances through a room, and usually, beyond its walls.
It’s good to know this angelic voice could be earning extra bucks.
Believe me, it’s sincere, genuine and believable when she’s telling me to take out the garbage.

Getting Paid to Talk
When: 6:30-9 p.m. March 24. (The class also will be offered May 12 and July 28.)
Where: City Park Recreation Center, 316 Lake Drive, Salisbury
Who: For anyone who wants to explore the possibilities of using his or her voice to make money.
Registration: Limited to first 25 people on each date. Call 704-638-5295 to register or for more information.
Fee: $15
Sponsor: Salisbury Parks and Recreation Department and Voice Coaches of Albany, N.Y.
Background: Those attending will learn basics behind getting started in voice acting, working in the studio, effective demo production methods and industry pros and cons on where to look for voiceover opportunities. Attendees also will have the opportunity to record a mock commercial under the direction of a Voice Coaches producer.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mwineka