Paying those dues

When you hear that phrase about paying dues, you automatically think of two things:

          Belonging to a labor union and seeing that deduction on your paycheck stub

          Working long and hard to master a craft or skill that is your heart’s desire, and knowing it may take a long, long time to be successful monetarily from it

I did the first for 33 years at the post office – first paying dues to the APWU, which represented clerks like me, and then for NAPS, the advocacy group for most postal management employees. 

Now it’s my time for the second example.  It’s been a year since I was cast for my first commercial voiceover, a TV spot for a men’s clothing store in West Virginia.  It didn’t pay anything, since it was essentially intern work my coach gave me in addition to my training.  And I did about ten such spots during my six months of training.  That’s not to say they had no value to me.  I certainly profited from the reinforcement of learning each time, plus I had a ready-to-go resume when I opened JoeKat Voice-over, LLC for business last summer.

When I decided to pursue learning to play the drumset nearly ten years ago, I began subscribing to Modern Drummer magazine, absorbing the stories of the top drummers of today, and noting how hard and how long many of them had to work before making it big in the industry.  I’ve met and talked with a number of local drummers about how they started and how much work they have put into developing themselves as successful musicians.

As a Marx Brothers fan from way back, I first began to understand how many dues they paid after reading Harpo’s biography “Harpo Speaks!”.  It didn’t dawn on my until then that Groucho, Chico, and Harpo were all in their early to mid-40’s when they made their first movie “The Cocoanuts” in 1929, a smash success that followed their successful Broadway run of the same play.

Why so late in life?  Because in essence, for the last 20 to 25 years they had been on the road seven days a week, playing every vaudeville circuit in the country.  I can’t imagine what must have been like.

Their success did not come without cost – low pay, loneliness, riding buses, trains, and even stagecoaches, booing audiences, rejections from agents and theater owners, thievery and corruption by unscrupulous businessman, to say nothing of the fatigue and bad food. 

But those long years on the road were where Chico developed his piano showmanship.  Where Harpo taught himself to play a harp and become a pantomime.  Where Groucho practiced and developed and refined his unique persona, style, delivery, and penchant for snappy comebacks.  It was where they forged their determination, and molded their talent and skills day by day, month by month, year by year, until success arrived “overnight”.

While I don’t intend to leave my family in the lurch for the next twenty years in search of VO success (wives tend to frown upon husbands doing that), I do understand that patience is in order, as well as hard work each day.  I use any small success that comes up – a favorable rating from an audition, a compliment by a prospective client I’ve just struck up a conversation with – as the fuel for my determination to succeed as a voice actor.

If you’re reading this post, what dues are you paying right now?  What keeps your fire burning, whether you’re pursuing voiceover or another skill or goal?  Feel free to share by clicking on “Leave A Reply” section below (please, NO spam, NO advertising, NO messages inviting to buy your guarantees to increase my web traffic – those will be deleted with extreme prejudice, and they tell me you’re not reading this notice!)

That’s all for now.  Ouch – I spent the previous weekend in Denver at a conference, and my body still hasn’t adjusted back from the high altitude there.   Maybe I’ll write about that experience in a future post.  Until then, keep your best voice forward and make sure you set aside something in your personal budget to make sure those dues get paid.   Take care.


Vocal memories

Do you wish you had a memorable voice?  Me too.  Come to think it, maybe we both already do

Did you know that our amazing brain starts learning even before we’re born?  Researchers have determined that infants are able to hear their mother’s voice while they are in the womb, and will react to that voice more than anyone else immediately after birth.

I can’t remember that far back, but I’m sure when I was a toddler I was able to pick my mother and father out in a crowd just by hearing them.  And being fortunate enough to have enjoyed knowing all four of my grandparents, I can still hear how they sounded whenever I think about them.

What other voices can I remember?  That of my first grade teacher, Miss Blume, and most of my other elementary school teachers.  Strangely, I don’t remember what my kindergarten and third grade teachers sounded like, although I can see their faces even now.  But I can remember the voices of the rest of them, from middle school through high school, and maybe even more so those of my instructors at Ohio State University.

I can still hear many voices from our first church, including those of our pastor from when I was in 4th grade through 7th grade, and another gentleman with a deep gravely voice who used to read a story each year at our Easter sunrise service.  And there one guy in the choir who I never heard actually sing:  whenever he was given a solo, he would speak it, with an understated voice and very effective timing.

The great sportscasters of my youth – Ray Scott, Vin Scully, Curt Gowdy, Lindsey Nelson.  I remember exactly how they sounded, but what I wouldn’t give to hear them live once more.

When my sons were infants, those tiny voices imprinted themselves in my cerebral cortex forever.  It’s amazing how much power those voices had over me and my wife!

At the 2016 Midwest Voiceover Conference in Columbus OH, I was honored to speak one-on-one with Rodney Saulsberry, Joe Cipriano, and J. Michael Collins.  It was one thing to hear how they sounded over Skype or on Youtube, but to hear them in person?  Talking to me personally?  Save that to the hard drive, and make a back-up copy, brain.

Is my voice memorable?  I’m not sure.  Maybe it’s unforgettable, although that could be a good thing or a bad thing!  I do know that people I have come up to me at games where I’m the public-address announcer, and tell me they didn’t know I was there, but when they heard the loudspeaker, they knew it had to be me.  And I’ve had the reverse happen, with folks coming up to me at the shopping mall after hearing me in conversation with a store clerk, and say they recognized my voice from a football or basketball game.

That’s a sobering thought, when you think about it.  The question we all have to ask ourselves is, when folks remember how we sound, is it because we were giving it our best effort and content?

What about you, the reader?  How many voices can you personally remember from your past?  What are some of the more memorable voices you can recall?  If you’d like to share, please click on Leave A Reply in the upper right to post a comment.  (NOTE:  please, no spam or advertising messages, those will be deleted with extreme prejudice)

That’s all for now.  Until next time, remember that we all have memorable voices in some way, so we should always keep our best voice forward – someone may be listening!  Take care.


Trials of a voiceover blog

I’ll be painfully honest:  in addition to enjoying the sound of my own voice, I really do like reading what I choose to express myself in writing.  This blog is a great example.

I’ll be equally honest:  I’m a bit disappointed that I haven’t got any serious replies to my blog posts – yet.  That’s why I don’t get depressed.  At least I am someone who’s entertained and enlightened by words I’ve penned.  LOL, indeed.

So far, I’ve just gotten spam replies  and solicitations, with a certain weekly regularity.  I categorize them thusly:

          “Buy this app to increase the number of people  who will see your website” (the most honest of the bunch – no pretense)

          “I notice your website could use more original writing – buy this app to get more fresh original content!”  (What??? It’s ALL original!)

          (sic)”obviously like your website but you need to test the spelling on quite a few of your posts.  A number of them are rife with spelling problems and I to find it very bothersome to tell the truth however I will certainly come back again”

I think that last reply is rife with grammar problems and poor word usage, to say nothing of the fact that they didn’t notice I’d used spell-check on the post they replied to.  I may respond to them and sell them “Zunardo’s fool-proof app for making sure you don’t look like an idiot when you spam me”.   It’s on sale for a low, low down payment, and only  a $99.99 service fee per month.  And believe, I’m selling that baby cheap.

Yes, I am tempted to leave them on there and make it look as if my blog is active and click-worthy.  However, my upbringing reminds me to make sure I tag them all as spam.  It’s easy to tell that’s what they are, even the ones that are subtle, because they never refer to anything in the post itself.

But what of the future of Zunardo Sez?  Will anyone actually read the gorilla’s posts and reply in the pure interest of actual discussion?  Stay tuned next week to this blog.  Don’t touch that URL!

In the meantime, dear readers, what interesting experiences do you have regarding blogs, either running your own and filtering out the riff-raff, or getting into an interesting discussion through a blog post?  I’d love to hear from you, just click on “Leave A Reply” at the top right.  (NOTE:  NO spam or solicitations, those will be deleted with extreme prejudice)

That’s all for now.   Until next time, express yourself while choosing your words carefully, and keep your best voice forward.  Take care.