Baby, It’s Cold Outside, so Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!

After giving myself a few days to digest my turkey dinner, I’m ready to fire up my keyboard again.  I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving holiday, and that you enjoy the upcoming Christmas season, as well as that of the other holidays so prevalent in the next four or five weeks.

It’s been two weeks since I signed up to record weather forecasts on, and it has been a great learning tool.  On my first day it took 3 and a half hours to record the forecast for ten radio stations – an average of 20 minutes per station.  Considering  most of the dry voiceover tracks ranged from 25 to 30 seconds, you can imagine how slow I was moving.

In addition, five of the stations have weather beds (music and SFX files) to mix in, so that slowed me down even more, mostly from the lack of familiarity with the material.  But the difficult part for me was re-stating the forecast data, displayed on my monitor, in such a way as to be conversational, understandable, and listener-friendly.  I was using a Word document to cut-and-paste the forecast data and then re-format it and edit it into a logical conversational tone.  The RFN website has excellent instructions on recording do’s and don’t’s, including how to phrase certain things, so that the forecast sounds to the listener as if someone in the radio station is actually there, looking outside, and letting you know what they see up in the sky.

Yesterday I decided to not look at the Word document, and instead recorded my dry VO just looking at the actual forecast data, and translating it in my head to something a little sexier.  Let’s just say it took me a few minutes.  But the result was, I cut my time in half, and was done with all ten stations in an hour and 45 minutes.  Better, but with lots of room to improve.  My goal is to have it down to one hour by next week, and I’m pretty sure it’s within my grasp.  I just have to train my brain.  Once I do that, I may see if I can add a few more stations.

In addition to helping me streamline my recording and editing technique, I noticed today that I seem to be auditioning with more confidence and efficiency.  It could be just a coincidence, but I did six on-line auditions today, felt very good about five of them, and was notified two hours later by one representative that he had selected my audition to along with a few others to be heard by the actual client for the final decision, and that he would add my name and profile to his “favorites” list for future direct invitations.  Yes, that felt good when I read that.  Who doesn’t like positive feedback?

And so, I’m in somewhat of a transition period.  High school football is over for me, and college basketball has already started.  I do have two more double-headers to work before Christmas, so that will keep me on my toes.  The last game I worked was pretty exciting – one of the players went over the scorer’s table about five feet from me, actually leaping onto the table in mid-sprint, and jumping from there into the bleachers.  Fortunately, he landed safely and made it back onto the court.  The life of a PA announcer is always interesting.

In addition, the Thanksgiving holiday has past, and last night I officially ushered in the Christmas season by watching the “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” Claymation TV special.  That show is near and dear to my heart.  I remember watching its debut broadcast in 1964 as a first-grader, which is the perfect age to appreciate its magic.  Last night, after Cornelius defeated the Abominable Snowman and Rudolph was able to keep Santa from cancelling Christmas that year, I reflected on the performance of the actors who voiced the various characters, and how iconic their representations have become. 

One actor in particular is Paul Soles, who was the voice of Hermey the elf (“I want to be a den-tist!”), and was also the voice of the first Spiderman/Pete Parker in 1966 on Saturday morning cartoons.   You can find a 2014 interview with Paul talking on Youtube by searching for “Paul Soles – Hermey the Elf”.  He’s 86 now, and yes, he can still do a great Hermey.

For my readers out there, what are some of your favorite cartoon voices, both well-known and not?  Feel free to Reply To This Post, I’d love to hear from you.

I’ll leave you to consider another iconic voice, one very familiar at Christmas – Andy Williams.  I had the opportunity to see him perform his Christmas show live in 1986.  He opened with the classic “The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year”, and I will make sure I listen to his classic medley “Happy Holiday/It’s The Holiday Season” several times between now and December 25.

Until next time, keep putting your best voice forward, and remember your voice may be providing magic and memories for someone else.  Take care.


Networking and learning: partners

Wow, what a wild week! This business of meeting people, making connections, and finding exactly how few degrees of separation there are between me and folks I thought were total strangers is amazing.

First, I attended the annual Ohio school board conference this week in Columbus. I believe this is my ninth conference since I was first elected to my local school board in 2007. In addition to some excellent learning seminars I attended, I perused the large vendor exhibit area in the main exhibition hall of our convention center.
I was able to network as a voice artist with a couple of entities. First, a company called Melhart that sells musical instruments had a display for LED light systems designed to fit on drums for school marching and concert bands. The systems even had a wireless controller so that all of lights on all of the instruments could be synchronized. I gave the rep my business card, he handed me a brochure with contact info, and I promised to forward their company info to my high school band director.

Next, the Ohio High School Athletic Association has a booth each year, and I always stop by to see if there’s any new info I need or can use as a PA announcer. Two OHSAA officials were on hand, one of whom I have worked several basketball games with (he was a baskeball referee for many years). He introduced me to the other official, who I learned had worked with Columbus State Community college, and left there when I came on as a PA announcer. After discussing the people we both knew there and what I was doing with myself now, I handed her my business card. She immediately gave me the name of their director of public relations, and promised she would forward the card.

On Thursday I began a new weekday gig as a radio weather forecaster for My VO instructor Ron Allan suggested this to our monthly VO Meet-up group (Ron had been an RFN weathercaster in the past), and I know several others in our group have also have signed on with RFN. My gig involves doing the mid-day (10 AM – 3 PM) weather for a total of ten cities – eight in Texas, one in Wyoming, and one in Arizona. Since the earliest of the stations had to have their forecast ready by 10 AM my time, I decided I would start right at 7 AM.

After a training session by phone and being sent an email with detailed instructions and the “weather beds” (lead-in/background music files) for each station, I was on my own that first morning. It took me from 7 AM to 10:30 AM to get them done. Friday I cut it down to three hours. You can imagine how dismayed I was to see that, especially as others had told me it should take no more than an hour or hour-and-a-half.

The challenge in the weather forecasting is to take the dry forecast data you see on the screen and make it conversational and pleasant, in additon to being professional. So, you’re actually getting experience in copywriting, editing voiceover quickly, and production (mixing music and voiceover tracks). But after Friday’s session, I set up a Word document with notes for each station, and I expect to be down to two hours next week, and keep improving each day.

Wouldn’t You Know department : since I wasn’t checking my email for those three hours on Thursday, as I was in the middle of trying to finish the last station, my phone rang. It was Ron Allan with a voiceover job for me, wanting to know why I hadn’t responded to his email (he has a TV station client that calls him frequently, usually wanting something ‘”right away”). After issuing a “mea culpa”, I promised Ron he would have the finished job by noon, and I delivered. The really interesting thing is, the job was to do a commercial for a local business in another state, and it’s the fifth spot I’ve done for this business since September. Ron forwarded their request in his message to me, and the client had written the words “Is Joe available for another spot?”

And as I am typing this late Saturday night, I’m still coming off the disappointment of watching my alma mater’s football team get beat in the playoff for the regional championship by another very fine team. But I still managed to make it a worthwhile experience. Remember in my series on PA announcing how I liked to bring copies of our team’s roster with pronunciations and key players? This game was held at Upper Arlington high school in Columbus, and they have probably the premier high school facility in central Ohio, with PA speakers second to none.

I made my usual reconnoiter to the pressbox an hour before kickoff, and was introduced to the UA announcer, who was overjoyed to see my announcer sheets. After he thanked me, I pulled out my business card and handed it to him, with a request that mention my name to anyone in need of voiceover. He responded by giving me his card – it said “voice artist and PA announcer” ……… what were the odds? And we proceeded to have a nice chat about the world of PA announcing and voiceover, discussed condenser mic choices and whether one should have an agent, and we promised to keep in touch.

As I listened to my new friend during the game, I was struck by his professionalism, not only in his announcer mechanics, but in the quality of his speaking voice. I recorded some samples of his announcing to study next week, and I’m looking forward to making some small adjustments to my delivery.

What was the common thread in all of these events in the past week – they happened because I met someone new, which caused changes in me, and also caused me to begin to seek out others in my voiceover journey – other artists to learn from, new people who might be potential clients, which may create opportunities. In short, networking – creating a connection between several entities that all might have something in common.

Through my co-worker, I met Ron Allan. Through my training with Ron, he has made my voice available for spots for his clients – and his client’s clients also, which has led to repeat work for myself.

Through Ron Allan, I met the head of the radio forecasting network, and now have a regular job there. And because of Ron Allan, I now have a sense of professionalism and confidence to seek out others, and let them know what I can do.

Because of my work has high school PA announcer, and as an announcer with Columbus State,  I was able to make a new acquaintance with a state governing body, and I may have a potential connection within that body for possible work.

Finally, in all of those connections, I have learned something of value I can use for my business as a voice artist. It might be a name, it might be a technique – but it’s something I didn’t have before I made that connection.

How about you?  How did you begin your network, and what have you done to enlarge it and make it more effective?  I’d love to hear from – feel free to click “Reply To This Post”, and let me know your thoughts. (please, no spam messages or solicitations, they will be removed).

That’s all for now.  Until next time, keep your best voice forward, and may your network be “coast-to-coast”.  Take care.


Follow-up: Reading Services for the blind

This week I picked up where I left off two years ago as a volunteer reader at VoiceCorps, the reading service for the blind in Columbus OH.   After speaking with the volunteer coordinator to set up a time to come in and record, she asked me about doing a new 45-minute show they just added to read from monthly Columbus business magazine, and I was thankful for the opportunity.

Overall, my recording session went very well, and it was good to be back after being gone a few years.  Once again, however, I realized that the art of reading out loud and doing it well consistently is harder than it looks.

Once I sat down in one of the studio booths at VoiceCorps, operating the workstation and using the recording application was a breeze.   I don’t know the name of the recording app they use, but it’s a simple mouse-click on large icon buttons that are the same icons used on older cassette recorders – record, pause, resume recording, stop, rewind, fast-forward, etc.  There’s also a large running timer to let you know when you have to wrap up your show, and the studio engineer takes care of saving the file and uploading it to the broadcast queue.

The actual reading out loud was another matter – I had some moments where I missed a period, or implied a period, and then had an awkward pause before I realized it and finished the sentence.  And there were two sentences where my brain and mouth couldn’t synch up for some reason.   For the one sentence, I just said, “Beg pardon, let me read that again”, and kept going – that is perfectly acceptable, and it helps keep the flow.  The other one was bad enough that I just stopped recording, backed up to the end of the previous sentence, and punched “Record” again, and went from there.

I must admit, I have been spoiled using Adobe Audition in my studio and editing each little breath and tongue click at will, but that is not necessary when reading for VoiceCorps, plus it makes the time to record a 45-minute show much longer than necessary, so you keep editing to a minimum.   Mind you, the reading should be done reasonably well, but absolute perfection is not necessary.

What I find most difficult about the task is reading vertical columns, such as newspapers or magazines, because sentences are broken up into more segments.  Magazines are typically more challenging, because those writers construct much longer sentences, so your eyes are frantically searching for a key word to stress, or whether there is a quote followed by the words,  “he/she said”.  As a sighted person, when I’m reading to myself, my brain can automatically and quickly assemble and make sense of word chunks in that format, but verbalizing takes a bit more time.

While I was at VoiceCorps, I also listened in on the live feed while other readers were in a different booth reading from the Columbus Dispatch daily newspaper.  VoiceCorps has so many great readers.  They are deliberate and un-rushed, while speaking in a normal conversational voice.  Maybe one day I’ll be at that level – until then, I’ll keep striving for continuous improvement.

It was nice to chat with Chuck, the studio engineer once again.  He’s a voiceover guy himself, and records many of the promos and announcements for VoiceCorps that are heard in between shows.  Chuck was very excited to hear about me going into the voiceover business, asked me about my equipment, and then discussed several pluses and minuses of various condenser microphones.

The really cool take I got from all this?  Chuck asked me if I wanted to record my show at home each week, and then use a file transfer protocol to get the audio file to him so he can insert into the broadcast queue for the right date and time.  Boy, I jumped on that suggestion.   It will save on driving time and gasoline, because I would only have to go there once a month to pick up the latest edition of the magazine.  I can record my show at my leisure, whether during the daytime or evening.  And it will help me improve my studio recording and editing technique.  Call it win-win-win.

That’s it from me.  How about you?  If you have any comments or questions about this or any of my other posts, feel free to click on the “Leave A Comment” link.  I’d love to hear from you.

Until the next time, keep putting your best voice forward, and keep striving for continuous improvement.  Take care.


Random ruminations

November already?  October went by fast this year.

I do believe that autumn has been my favorite time of the year since I was in the first grade.  It’s a combination of the leaves changing into brilliant colors, the cooler temps, and the long shadows in the afternoon – all pointing to the somber inevitability of winter’s darkness …… man, that’s not too bad.  I should have been a writer.

-My father celebrated his 83rd birthday yesterday.  I’ve heard the word “blessed” since I was a child, but never have appreciated what it really meant until ten years ago when I realized both my parents had lived past the national average life expectancy.  Then I would feel a twinge of guilt, because my wife’s father died when she turned 18, and her mother passed away eight years ago – and here I still had both of my parents around.  My mother died two years ago, so I will continue to count my blessings while Dad is still here for me to visit with and talk to.

-I must be a communist or something, because the news that the Chicago Cubs won the World Series last night didn’t phase me.  It wasn’t always that way.  I grew up listening to Cincinnati Reds games with my father while listening to his transistor radio every summer, and I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to play Little League ball.  I remember Dad buying me the 1969 Street & Smith season preview, which I devoured from cover to cover.  I exulted in the Reds’ victories in 1975 and 1976, my wife and I followed the Atlanta Braves every night on TV (back when Ted Turner’s WTBS-TV broadcast their games, and we would attend the AAA Columbus Clippers games several times a month.

But WTBS divested themselves from the Braves, our sons grew up and moved into high school as we committed more and more time to their activities, major league  players grew long bell-bottomed baseball pants that dragged the ground, and the Columbus Clippers moved from an older park on the near West Side to tonier digs downtown.  Not sure why, but the game just doesn’t appeal to me like it did.  But, boy, back in the day ……..

-I met with the volunteer coordinator of the VoiceCorps reading service for the blind yesterday, she is adding a new Columbus magazine to their reading schedule (Columbus CEO Monthly), and asked if I would like to be the reader for that program (I said yes).   She then showed me another Columbus business newspaper and said to use articles from there, and flipped through to show me areas of focus and who the authors were – one of columnists turned out to be a guy who I’ve known since he was 11 or 12, when he and his parents moved into our neighborhood and began attending our church.  I had the pleasure of watching him grow up, and I remember him telling me back then he wanted to be a reporter.  He is now a successful reporter for various local publications, although it did make me feel much older to realize he’s considered to be middle-aged now.

-It was 80 degrees in Columbus this week on November 1 – amazing.  My father told me that a new high temperature record was set on that date, and he told me it broke the previous record of 79 back in 1950.  Then he said, “Now, do you know what happened three weeks later?”  I said no.  He said, “The infamous Snow Bowl took place during the annual Ohio State-Michigan football game” – and then it hit me what he was saying.   For those of you who haven’t heard of this particular, that was a brutal year for this rivalry game – 10 degrees, 25 mph winds, and two inches of snow falling per hour which obliterated the field lines and eliminated visibility for everyone.   Michigan won 9-3 – we wuz robbed!

This year many weather pundits are saying we’re in for a brutal winter, and maybe this late Indian summer is the key.   Brrrr!   All I can say is that I have an appointment next week to have my chimney and woodburning stove cleaned out, and I’m getting some firewood delivered, so we should be able to do like REO Speedwagon and ride the storm out – sorry, I couldn’t resist that line.

That’s it for this week.  How have you all been doing?  Feel free to click the “Leave A Comment” link at the top of this page and let me know what you’re up to.   (No spam messages or solicitations, they will be removed).

Until then, stay young, stay warm, and keep your best voice forward.  Take care.