Voiceover Artists Serve as Sounding Boards at Meetings

Turns out pregnant women, the solar system, and the Mount St. Helens eruption have a thing or two in common. And it’s not a one-liner about spacey mood swings.

All such subjects were fodder at the June 13 meeting of the University Park Dallas Voiceovers — a group of seasoned and aspiring audio actors whose monthly gatherings have evolved into practice sessions at La Madeleine on Lemmon Avenue. Mock commercials for maternity and orthopedic hospitals made their list, as did documentary-style sound bites about classical music, natural wonders, and a factoid about kissing. Even a character from a fledgling movie script had a cameo.

“I’ve always been healthy and active,” David Medford said when he took his turn at the mic, his voice dropping from normal-guy tenor to something rich and clear and velvety smooth. “And eventually the pain in my knee became more than I could stand.”

Medford’s knees look fine, but that’s not the point. “The Azalea Clinic” helped him, or rather the character he was conjuring, and group leader Bettye Zoller approved.

“Do you believe him?” she asked members, who murmured their yesses. “I believe him.”

A longtime pro, Zoller had her first acting and radio spots at age 6, and later sang for a jazz band in Chicago.

Her musical gigs gave way to studio vocals for big-name musicians, then commercial jingles around 40 years ago, and finally to spoken scripts — work that paid far more than Zoller ever could have imagined.

Her voice has since lilted into cars and living rooms as far away as Japan, and for clients as varied as Mary Kay and Verizon.

“I charged myself around and got professional,” she said, “and it’s a good thing I did, because as you may have noticed, jingles have gone the way of the dodo bird.”

Her reel isn’t just ads, though, and as she often tells the Voiceovers group, commercials are just a sliver of the pie. Corporate training videos make for a regular if perhaps unsexy gig. Audiobooks are another source of income for many voice actors. And don’t forget about the canned voices who put your phone calls on hold, or the speaking roles in video games.

“It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme,” Zoller cautioned. “It takes sales. It takes getting yourself and your demo out there in the world. It takes meeting producers and going to places where producers gather.”

And sometimes it takes networking. Hence the Voiceovers club, which she founded in 2009 on meetup.com. The group  has since grown to around 150 members — many of whom hail from University Park, added Zoller, who lives due west of Highland Park — but it’s a dedicated handful who seem to attend the monthly meetings, learning business tips and how to bring products, textbooks, novels, and other vocal miscellanies to life. Some are retirees, including Rik Hess, a jovial, market-savvy sort who says he got involved so he could supplement his Social Security payments.

“I did it,” Zoller likes to say, “and you can do it, too.”

La Madeleine at 3906 Lemmon Ave. hosts the University Park Dallas Voiceovers for meetings at 6:30 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month.

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