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This article by Caroline Calogero was published in U.S. 1

Newspaper on July 19, 2000. All rights reserved.

Finding Your Voice

E-mail: Caroline

It’s not just the crazies who hear voices. We’ve all

listened to that little talking Chihuahua push us to eat more tacos.

Such voice-overs are everywhere, says Dan Levine, a composer,

author, and producer (E-mail: Levine will

give a bird’s eye view of this industry and explain how to break into

the market in a seminar at the Learning Studio on Thursday, July 20,

at 6:30 p.m. The workshop repeats Thursday, August 17, at 2 p.m.,

and Tuesday, September 12, at 6:30 p.m. Cost: $49. Call 732-355-0600.

Levine explains that the voice-over market isn’t limited to


When narrations are included, it’s huge. Corporate films and videos,

canned announcements inside stores, explicators of voice mail menu

choices, and of course, talking elevators all use voice-overs.


is an enormous amount of work out there. So much more than people

realize," he says.

Naturally, not every voice box has what it takes. "You’ve got

to have something special to work with," he says. Your vocal


should be interesting or commanding enough to spark comments.


telling are compliments from those who have never met you in person

but have only heard you speak over the phone.

He describes the work as very close to acting. "A lot of people

have good voices but still don’t have the instincts." Levine


three qualities are necessary for success:

The ability to read a script yet not sound like you’re


An engaging or pleasing quality to your voice.

A vocal style distinctive enough to create a niche market.

Levine aims for a fun evening and encourages everyone to take

a turn reading copy at the microphone. After class he offers discreet

evaluations of whether your vocal chords are made of the right stuff.

For those with promise, his production company stands ready to provide

coaching and demo services, and apparently these Learning Studio


are one of his sources for new clients.

Despite the multitude of opportunities, many voice-over wannabes have

trouble getting a piece of the action. Levine will give advice on

how to crack the market and which market segments are most


"Most people go about it the wrong way. Most people go to New

York and immediately try to compete with the big boys in town. That’s

not the way to do it," he says.

Levine hints at sharing a unique approach to marketing a voice-over

persona. He boasts his plan has "proven to be successful with

hundreds of people."

The son of a dentist and an English teacher, Levine majored in music

theory at the Manhattan School of Music, Class of 1972, and was


for a 1993 Tony award for best original score for his musical


Karenina." He has been producing commercials for nearly 30 years,

has written a book "You’re on the Air," and teaches his class

in voice-overs at 150 schools up and down the east coast. He has


in Mahwah, New Jersey, and outside Burlington, Vermont, where he is

building a recording studio for his projects in composing music for

the theater.

For those interested in pursuing voice-over jobs, Dan Levine


offers follow up programs. These sequels train people in voice-over

techniques, help them put together a demo, and assist in marketing

the demo. Levine calls the demo the "calling card of the


and the equivalent of a vocal resume.

To make demos, Levine works with producers in Philadelphia, New York,

Washington, D.C., and Boston. He estimates costs range from $3,000

to $5,000 in New York City and from $1,000 to $2,400 in other areas.

Newcomers need two demos, one for commercials and one for narrations.

Each demo runs 2 to 5 minutes in length.

A demo should be looked at as an investment, says Levine, the means

to get the work. The money spent should be recouped in one or two


Levine considers voice-overs the highest paying field in the world.

Careers often begin as part time endeavors fit in during evenings

around another job. The sums he quotes for potential earnings seem

princely; even beginners can make $50,000 to $100,000 per year, he


Levine is constantly evaluating voices and hearing some he thinks

should give voice-overs a try. They include Amtrak conductors, his

doctor, and anonymous souls in hotel lobbies. "My ear is my


he says.

The vocally gifted, like cream, will naturally rise to the top.


talent will not be overlooked. Good talent will be recognized and

led by the hand to the forefront," says Levine. Look out, James

Earle Jones.

— Caroline Calogero

(, but note this site can be "sticky" and hard

to exit from).

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