Voice professionals: Growing demand for trained voices

Theres good news for those who like the sound of their own voice. With a little training they can take home big bucks from the new media which reward the gift of the gab
In the newly emergent wholly wired world if your face isnt your fortune, dont worry — it could be your voice. In the new era of career planning where the EDL (engineer, doctor, lawyer) syndrome has been trashed and job experimentation is hip, voice and voice-over artistes seem to be springing up in every nook and cranny. You hear them on the radio and television, on CD-ROMs and computer-based training programmes, documentary films, corporate films, animation serials and films, phone answering machines, promo advertisements, and live shows.

You better believe it: the ‘voice industry is hot and happening. Even though production of advertising and corporate films has slowed down a bit, other promotion media are going great guns. Radio and television are booming, and event managers are doing great business. And all these businesses require professionals with the gift — or training — of the gab.

Can a voice be trained? Undoubtedly. Contemporary voice trainers help students to understand the demands of the recording media and their limitations; to appreciate the emotional graph of a film to dub it convincingly. But a good voice is only the raw material; to learn the technique of using voice effectively, professional help is required.

Where does one get professional help and training? The Jamia Millia University, New Delhi, offers a full-fledged course in voice training. Moreover numerous workshops are conducted in all major metros by experienced voice and media professionals who advertise their services in the local dailies.

In Mumbai the best training programmes offered are by:

AAROHA, The Voice Clinic, Mumbai (9819752312, 022-32511925)
Indian Voice-Overs with training centres in Mumbai, Pune, New Delhi and Bangalore.
Voice Bazaar, workshops by Anil Mani (9821008992)
Xaviers Institute of Communication (XIC) offers its Announcing, Broadcasting,
Compering, and Dubbing workshop (www.xaviercomm.org)
R.K. Films and Media Academy, New Delhi, offers certificate courses in voice training
(01165394944, 65394945)

For those elsewhere, classified advertisements in prominent local dailies are the best bet. Customer relationship/call centres and public speaking courses with voice modulation training are also useful training arenas.

ATTRACTIVE REMUNERATION. The rewards of professional training are well worth the effort. Though English fluent voice professionals command higher prices, there is no dearth of opportunities for the vernacular language professional because there is plenty of work in the dubbing and translation fields. Television channels and radio stations also offer attractive remuneration. For example, a full time radio jockey with Mumbais Radio Mirchi starts off with Rs.20,000 per month which could rise to Rs.50,000 within a few years. Freelancers too can rake it in. Comperes of one-off events are routinely paid Rs.15,000–25,000 and celebrity comperes could take home a cool Rs.100,000. Likewise a voiceover professional narrating a documentary taking home Rs.300,000 is not unheard of.

Theres been a 100 percent growth in the audio-visual media in the past five years and the ‘voice industry will continue to boom. Voice training workshops attract droves of youngsters keen on qualifying as voiceover professionals, presenters, and anchors. Its a happening industry,” says Salone Mehta, who made waves in the new media as a radio jockey and producer with Times FM, Radio Mirchi and in June 2003 as director of Big Mouth, which trains aspiring voice professionals for radio, television, and the audio-visual media.

Equipped with a postgraduate degree in mass communications awarded by Sophia College, Mumbai, in 1994 Mehta signed up with the Juillard School of Performing Arts, New York, for a course in voice training with a dream of becoming an opera singer. But that dream fell by the wayside when she landed a challenging job as associate editor of the New York-based Earth Times, immediately after she completed her voice training course. During her two-year stint with the paper she covered the Beijing Womens Conference, the UN Habitat II Conference in Nairobi among other issues and events.

Following her return to India in May 1996, she joined Times FM as radio jockey and associate producer. When FM went off the air temporarily between 1999–2001, Mehta was appointed master of ceremonies at Planet M, the musical arm of the Times of India Group where she interviewed some of the top Indian and international musicians and compered several live shows. With Times FM back on air in its new avatar as Radio Mirchi, Mehta reassumed the role of radio jockey/senior officer.

Being a diehard radiohead, in June 2003 Mehta founded Big Mouth which conducts voice training workshops to groom on-air talent for various radio stations. Currently there are 210 radio stations across the country. Therefore, there is a constantly rising demand for full-time and part-time voice professionals with young bankers etc doubling as voice artistes over the weekends. With a communication city having sprung up in Dubai, quite a few of our young radio jockeys have gone there, where they rake in Rs.2 lakh plus per month. Moreover a growing number of radio programmes are being produced in Mumbai and sent to Dubai,” she says.

That should be good news for the increasing number of young — and old — people who like to listen to the sound of their own voices!

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