Does the Voice Really Matter?

It’s not about the voice, or is it?
Any voice over professional will tell you that at the end of the day our job is not simply about the voice, it’s about so much more. This week, I find myself inspired by so many experiences and so much of what I’ve read and consequently I  I have a lot floating around in my head. That sounds funny but I do. In this blog post, I want to reconcile, or tie together three seemingly separate things that I keep thinking about: my father’s recent trial in the third circuit court in Pennsylvania, the WoVo slogan, and Abby Wambach’s speech at Barnard’s commencement. What is the unifying element in all of these three things: being the voice of those who would otherwise not be heard, which as a voiceover professional, is my raison d’etre.

The tie that binds
As a gal who found her passion, or one of her passions but for sure her career, rather late in life, I strongly identify with the slogan of WoVo (World Voices Organization): we speak for those who speak for a living. As a creative, it is a joy to work in such a wonderful field, but to be able to use my voice to actually help others is actually the icing on the cake. My very first job in voiceover was a narration for a women’s mental health clinic in Islamabad, Pakistan. The script was heart wrenching and the video was quite poignant. Besides that it articulated the differences between my life and the lives of the women that I was speaking up for, this was likely the only chance that I would even have to impact these women in any way. Having studied the economics of women in less developed countries in college, this project meant so much to me.

More recently, I did a project for a Women’s shelter and that project touched me the same way. That video was about breaking the cycle of abuse in the lives of children who were exposed. As a professional narrator, it was my task to maintain an upbeat tone through out, but it was a challenge with such touching copy. The video can be seen here.

I asked some other professional female voiceover talents to talk about how they use their voice to help others. My close friend Kim Handysides says: “I try to think of every job as helping someone with my voice. Whether it’s talking about a product or service that might help make someone’s life better, teaching someone something or lightening their day with humor or entertainment. Once in a while, I get asked to do pro bono VO. And I pretty much always agree. It’s one of the ways I give back. A couple of years ago Simentel approached me to help them with a campaign for Easterseals. It inspired me to make charitable voiceover part of my regular value proposition. I now have a Giving website page under my Services section showing people how they can access me to help them with their pro bono campaigns. It also inspired me to donate 1% of the money I make in voiceover toward my own favorite charitable campaign #kissipfgoodbye.”

I also spoke to my dear friend Shelley Avellino. Shelley says, “I try and do a lot to inform people about research and how to cope with Cancer as much as I can.  All the medical e-learning I do is cancer related.” One video Shelley narrated is quite informative and can be seen here. Another video which Shelley is particularly proud of is one that helps children support their siblings who have cancer. This is extremely meaningful to me as my husband’s sister had leukemia when they were growing up and it effected him profoundly. Shelley’s touching video can be found here.

Why does it matter so much to me?
Besides that I am a mom and I came to voiceover from a career in education, I think that my father’s career has set such a precedent in my family that helping others is essential to my daily life. My father, Mike Levin, is an attorney in Pennsylvania. He has a unique practice representing school districts all over the state. Recently, he had the opportunity to defend Boyertown Area School district in a landmark case both in District Court and in the Third Circuit, at the same time working with the ACLU to protect the rights of the LGBTQ community and specifically of transgendered students. This case is just one example of a 40 plus year career of such amazing acts, but at a time when so many of our rights are in question and the current administration is taking away so many of our protections, the third circuits unanimous decision to protect the transgendered students right to use the bathroom and locker room with which the identify was extremely important. Seeing my father argue on their behalf, hearing his eloquence and listening to him flesh out both the laws and the Supreme Court precedents, I could not have been more proud of my father’s intelligence, ability, and expertise. More than that, I was overwhelmed with the sense that it seemed like he was meant to be there as he argued for their rights, as if that was the path he was supposed to be on in life, speaking out for the rights of this marginalized group. I admire my father for so many reasons, and if I have my verbal ability from him, then I am glad that in some small way through my voiceover career I too can help others.

Be the wolf…
I also feel that so much of what I feel compelled to do every single day, is of course, for my children, Emma and Jack. Unequivocally one of the best things that I have read recently is the speech that Abby Wambach made at a Barnard (yes, my Alma Mater) commencement. If you haven’t read it, you must take time to watch it. Wambach talks about how she spent so much of her life being little red riding hood, until she finally realized she needed to be the wolf. 

Let me tell you, so did I. It took me entirely too long to have a fire in my belly and once I did there was no putting it out. Every single day I am relentless and I think for me what has made all the difference, what has given me the fuel to fight for and be the wolf as Wambach says and rise up as my father has done for years, is my children. Frankly they deserve nothing less. Wambach also talks about using fear as your fuel.

As a mother, I constantly hear Janis Joplin’s words from Bobby McGee ringing in my head “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” and that fear burns like an inferno in me every day. Maybe that is the same thing fueling my father? The fear of not speaking. Perhaps this is true for others in voiceover too: once we open our mouths to help others, how on earth can we bear it to stop?