E-Learning resources we all can use


Glasses sitting on Keyboard

Kat Keesling is a voiceover friend of mine, and one of the minds behind the Hear The Bill project, a volunteer effort by voiceartists to make the health care bills passed by Congress accessible to everyone by reading and recording them. It was a brilliant effort organized by her and Diane Havens that I was proud to be a part of.

Earlier today, Kat posted a very cool article listing a number of resources aimed at e-learning professionals, but with many links and tools that would be helpful to bloggers, voice artists, small business owners, anyone with a need for some creative resources. I am already using one of the links, Stock.xchng, for the stock photo at the top of this post. I was just wondering what I would do now that PicApp is abandoning the WordPress platform; thanks to Kat, I don’t have to worry. Plus, the links offer a chance to explore some cool tools like Screenr. Thanks, Kat!

Edited @ 10:39 PM to include the actual link!

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Handling rejection with grace – up close and personal


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I posted this little story on the VO-BB, but I thought I would share it here as well.

Early in October, I auditioned to sing the National Anthem at a Charlotte Bobcats game. Not a money gig, but exposure, fun, something I’m good at, and tickets to an NBA game. Hard to lose in that situation in my opinion.

Well, until I got the email the following week that I didn’t make the cut. I still find it very very difficult to believe they could find 40 or so people better than me at singing the anthem. It sounds very self absorbed, but I know what I can do.

I let it go. Until last week, when I received an all hands email, looking for chorus members to sing at the Bobcats opener on Friday. I was steamed when I saw it. But still….let it go. It was just an audition like any of the ones we do.

Then, Wednesday. The Opera Carolina office calls me and asks me to do the anthem, since they couldn’t pull enough choristers together on such short notice. An email was sent to the Bobcats with my contact information, and I was ready to go. Woot!

I try to contact the team to make sure I can get tickets for the family. No answer. Call again. No response. We get to Friday. 4 calls, no response. I have to assume that no one is going to get back to me, so I get dressed, and head down to the stadium.

After sitting in the season ticket holders’ entrance for 45 minutes. I am finally whisked to court level, and handed off to the person running production. She goes off to speak to someone, and comes back.

“We’re so sorry. There was a mix up. We don’t need you to sing tonight. We can offer you two tickets?”

Anger. Embarrassment. Humiliation.

I love NBA basketball. I have been a supporter of this team since they came to Charlotte in 2004. And I am still livid. I don’t think I have ever been put in such a position as a performer.

And honestly, it took all I had not to blow up at the production lead. But I took a moment to think that it clearly was not her doing. It wasn’t her fault the communication dropped. But I was seething with anger anyway, and I left the building without pausing, and drove home. Not my finest moment.

This is a slightly different kind of “rejection” than that we face on a daily basis as a voice artist, but still, the lesson is the same: maybe not this time, but possibly next time. It isn’t always your call. You have a right to be disappointed and angry. But you can’t live on that.

There is still a little knot of anger and frustration with the situation. But I am striving to find another success, another positive to fill the gap that momentary lapse of reason left me with. It’s coming, don’t you worry.

Thank you to all of the VO-BB.com denizens who offered me kind words and support. You guys are the best. Again, if you are a voice artist or aspire to be one, you should go there right now, sign up, and see what these helpful, insightful people have to say.

Random Acts of Culture – A Good Cause and My Turn


KnightArts - Witnessing the Transformational Power of the Arts

If you listen to NPR, you have probably heard of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, if only in the underwriting acknowledgements that are delivered in the dulcet tones of Frank Tavares. One of the programs of the Knight Foundation is KnightArts. From the website:

Knight Foundation invests in artistic excellence, funding arts projects that engage the Knight resident communities in collective cultural experiences. We look for innovative, high-quality ideas. Our grantees represent both emerging artists and organizations and the oldest and most venerable institutions. The projects all have one thing in common: they enrich and engage the communities that produce them.

The program is in its first year, and emerging areas of interest include digitization of museum collections, development of arts incubator spaces, arts contests in which all community members are eligible for funding and a Random Acts of Culture program that brings fine art to the population and breaks down barriers that prevent consistent engagement in the arts.

Charlotte, NC is one of the eight resident Knight communities that receive funding for these efforts. And multiple arts organizations in the city, under the umbrella of the Arts and Science Council, have been involved in executing the goal of Random Acts of Culture, including Opera Carolina, the Charlotte Symphony, and North Carolina Dance Theatre.

I have been singing with Opera Carolina since 1998, both in the chorus and in roles in productions like Macbeth, Amahl & the Night Visitors, Susannah, and Tosca (check out those costumes). And the chorus has contributed to the Random Acts this year, though I was not able to participate. This past weekend, it was my turn.

On Saturday, Melinda Whittington, John Kaneklides and I were asked to go to SouthPark Mall, and give a Random Act in the Belk department store. Melinda performed “O mio babbino” from La boheme by Puccini, John sang “Una furtiva lagrima” from The Elixir of Love by Donizetti, and I sang “Votre toast” from Carmen by Bizet. I don’t know why none of Melinda’s performance did not make the video (it should have), but here are John and I.

This was not as easy to do as you would think: singing with a recording is tough enough since it will not adjust to your tempos, but it’s even harder when you can’t always hear the music. Still, it was a fun time, I think we entertained, and I was especially glad that my daughters were there to see it (you see both of them as the camera pans by them a couple of times).

Random Acts of Culture is a good program, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I hope you all get a chance to experience one sometime.

A good music resource


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My friend David Houston points out a great music and SFX resource in his blog “Do That Voice!” It is JewelBeat.com, and it offers free music and sound effects that are royalty free, a big key for using either in your voiceover productions. Check it out, and stop by David’s blog too. It will be well worth your time!

Clients, agents and being in the middle


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Like most voice artists, I have a number of agents. My agent here in Charlotte however generally only represents me for on camera work. Last week I had the opportunity to audition for an industrial video. I didn’t get the part, but my agent was kind enough to mention to the clients after I left that I also do voiceover. This resulted in me having the opportunity to audition for and win the narration job for the video. Good news!

As I waited for the script, I got a call directly from the client asking about my rate. This confused me, as though I do offer rates directly to clients, I felt that since my agency found this gig, it was not my place to set the rate, especially since there was a rate previously mentioned (if not agreed to in total) in emails that had moved back and forth. I did hem and haw well enough to make sure I was still getting the gig, but deferred to my agent for pricing. It has since been cleared up, and will be done soon.

This situation does bring this point up: how do you handle this kind of situation? I say honor your agreement with your agent. Don’t undercut them, don’t take things away from them, ESPECIALLY in the instance where you would not have gotten the gig without them. In general, your agent has your best interests in mind: in this case, they were able to get a gig for me even beyond the on camera aspect of the original audition. I am not so naive to think there is not self interest involved. Indeed, they were able to book an additional talent for the job they weren’t even planning on having available, and that is direct revenue to them. But the truth is, that revenue is also coming to me through their efforts. That is good enough to earn my loyalty when dealing directly with the client, and in the end, strengthens my relationship with the agency.

I would love to hear from others how they have dealt with similar situations. I’m sure this isn’t a rare situation, and I think that people new to the field and dealing with agents would find additional input valuable.

Have a great weekend….and thanks, Mary Kay!

Going viral


So this is fun: I did a web ad with Terry Daniel and and ad firm in Minnesota for a Senate candidate in Alaska. It was a spoof of the Old Spice ads everyone loved so much (me included). It got enough attention that it made the Today Show this morning.

Honestly, I don’t know if you can beat that kind of exposure.

Here’s the full ad. Thanks to Michael Wilson at Odd Lamps and Terry Daniel from Voice Over Club for bringing me onboard!

He’s not an octopus


I haven’t met David Houston in person. We are linked on most social networking platforms, but I haven’t yet had the pleasure of shaking his hand. Regardless of that fact, David Houston is a funny man. And he is not, in fact, an octopus.

Follow him on Twitter. Because he’s not an octopus.