As an introductory class, the material covered was very general and much of it I already knew from my own research into the industry. However, as many of these introductory seminars are designed to be, this was also a bit of a recruiting device. Attendees had the opportunity to record a sample spot and have it evaluated by the Voice Coaches client services director, Don Bowers. I eagerly took advantage of this opportunity to get some feedback from a voice professional with over 40 years in the industry.
Don called me the next morning morning and reviewed my take with me. It was enlightening, and i enjoyed hearing a professional evaluation of my work, even if it was short. The review was followed up with an offer for further training with Voice Coaches staff. I did not jump into the offer at that moment, but I did take some time over the next few days to look over the information I had received previously from Mike Massa, in addition to taking a look at the VoiceCoaches.com website.
Let me take a moment to talk about the different kinds of educational opportunities that prospective voice actors may encounter. There are an inordinate purveyors of voice over training available. A search on Google this morning for "voice over training" returned over 20,000,000 results. Obviously, there are not 20,000,000 different programs out there, but this gives you an idea of how many different options are available.
And for every different kind of program, there are as many different opinions among voice professionals as to what is the most effective format. It is important that you do your research, and find a program that fits your needs, your budget, and especially, your level of commitment.
I highly recommend reading the opinions of professional voice actor, producer and coach Michael Minetree (http://www.thevoiceovercoach.com/factsaboutvoiceover.html). He makes some very valid points about the voice actor training industry, and although I eventually chose to train with a program that he would probably consider less effective than his one-on-one training, he has some very strong arguments for avoiding the numerous demo mill and telecourse progams that are available.
That being said, here's a description of four programs I took a serious look at:
- The Great Voice Company (http://www.greatvoice.com/)
Susan Berkley, voice of AT&T and Citibank, and author of "Speak To Influence: How To Unlock The Hidden Power Of your Voice," is the personality behind this training program. In my Google search, this was the first website in the results list. My primary interest in this program came from the fact that it was the first one I looked into, and seemed like a good choice for someone looking to get into the business quickly. Ultimately I felt that the program was too impersonal and the promises of earning potential were emphasized too much ("Got A Great Voice?You Could Be Sitting On A Gold Mine…") over the amount of work required and risks involved. That turned me off to this option pretty quickly.
- Michael Minetree, Minewurx Studios (http://www.thevoiceovercoach.com/) I REALLY like Michael's approach to voice training. His website states that his training "adheres to one very firm belief; the only way to successfully coach voice over talent is one on one." Of all the programs I looked at, this one seems to present the most comprehensive and effective preparation for the serious student. If finances and impatience were not a concern for me, I would have signed up in a moment. As it was, I chose another route. We'll have to wait and see if the comes back to bite me. Regardless, I very well might go through his program in the future once I have access to greater financial resources.
- VoiceActing Academy (http://voiceacting.com/index.html)
James Alburger is an (11-time) Emmy-award winning audio producer and director, and he’s also a talented voiceover artist. Along with Penny Abshire, this creative team offers many levels of education to both the beginner and the veteran voice actor. The following quote from their website says a lot about their approach, and echoes many of the concerns that Minetree addresses. "There are many voiceover coaches who will tell you that you can make a lot of money in voiceovers, and some will suggest that making all this money is easy... The truth is that some people do make a lot of money in voiceover, but they’ve been perfecting their business and performing skills for many years... Most people who get into voiceover have no idea what’s involved, or that to be successful may require a substantial investment of time, energy, and money." Alburger is one of the best known coaches in the business, and has written several books, including "The Art of Voice Acting," an essential volume for any beginning voice actor. I think the primary reason I did not choose Alburger's workshops was that I had met in person with a member of another organization. This speaks volumes on the importance of face-to-facenetworking in this business, but that's a topic for a different time.
- Voice Coaches / Creative Voice Development (http://www.voicecoaches.com/)
David Bourgeois and his team at Voice Coaches combine their extensive professional experience to provide training to aspiring Voice Actors and communication professionals across the country. Two things in particular impressed me about their approach to voice over training: First, they don't present the opportunities in voice acting with any kind of rosy gloss. From my introductory class with Mike Massa to their written materials and the one-on-one training sessions, the difficulty of succeeding in this business without great commitment and patience was continually emphasised. No one promised me instant riches, but after what (I felt) was an honest evaluation of my potential, I was told that with hard work and perserverance, I would have the chance to be successful. Second, this is a group of industry professionals that LOVE what they do. Everyone I might had such a positive attitude, and I was constantly reminded that they are in this business because they have a passion for it and really enjoy what they are doing.
There were a number of other programs I looked at, but again these were the programs that I investigated the most. After a great deal of consideration, I found that I was really attracted to the services and educational philosophy of the Voice Coaches. Also, the ability to make reasonable payments over time was essential because of my lack of significant financial resources. And, as I mentioned above, the fact that I had taken an introductory course from one of their producers already and had spoken on the phone with another person on their staff made a huge difference. And so--with some very important encouragement from my wife--I set aside my worries and made a commitment to enroll in the Voicecoaches.com training program.
In my next post, I'll describe my experiences as I learned about the art of Voice Acting while participating in the Voice Coaches program.