Entries Tagged as 'announcers'

live announcing in a theatre makes it a performance

Peter K. O'Connell Live Announcer

Getting up on a stage was never something I strove towards.

I really much prefer being in the back of the house in a closed off space or room with a microphone, which is pretty much the set-up for most of the live announcing I have ever done.

But this past Veteran’s week, in my live announcing duties for the area American Legion Band, there I was, coming through the curtain of a tightly packed stage (full of talented musicians, mind you) in a very handsome theatre to guide the hundreds in the audience through a night of memorable, emotive songs.

Of course, I’ve done more of my share of MCing (emceeing, being an MC or emcee – grammar rules and spelling always fail me on this word) and that’s basically what this gig is for this enormously talented band. But of the majority of those many other emceeing events I’ve done over 30+ years, the events have historically been held at a hotel banquet room or similarly bland location.

When you’re on a stage, in a fully functioning theatre with a marquee outside and inside you see a proscenium arch, giant stage curtains, lighting grids, dressing rooms, spot lights – the whole shooting match – it’s a bit more real. For me it feels less like “emcee” or “live announcer” and more like “stage performer” – something I NEVER wanted to be.

Except I was. The spotlight squarely on me. Oy! I should have polished my shoes or something.

Thank goodness there’s a script for me to read on stage because memorization, in my finest hour, was never a strong suit and today at my age, it just ain’t happening.

I made it through, my part went fine and everyone said they were very happy with my ‘performance’.

That’s kind, but I would have been just as happy if I’d simply been called a fine “live announcer”, left in a backstage room with a reading light and a live mic. The stage is not the place for me.

But hey, it’s all good. I must remember that it’s just nice to be invited. And above all, I AM appreciative.

3 reasons attending FaffCamp is critical for your voice-over career

FaffCamp is March 19-22, 2015 in San Antonio, Texas

FaffCamp is March 19-22, 2015 in San Antonio, Texas

FaffCamp is coming to San Antonio, Texas March 19-22 this year. If you’re already attending, I look forward to seeing you there as I will be there as an attendee and a presenter.

Registration information is here.

If you work in voice-over, you are invited to attend…like right here, now, this is your invitation. That knocking sound you hear is opportunity.

For those uninitiated, FaffCamp is a peer-to-peer professional development conference for working voiceover pros (not just voice talents, voice actors, and narrators, but all pros who do work related to voice overs). It’s participant driven and highly interactive, just like its sister event FaffCon.

But at FaffCamp much of the agenda is set in advance, which makes it possible for Faff Camp to welcome a larger group.

Plus, there are cool things we do only at Faff Camp, like Topic Tables, Adopt-a-Question, and Lightning Talks! And since we have two tracks, Starting Smart and Working Pro, we welcome voice talents at ALL career stages.

I don’t have an ownership stake in FaffCamp or FaffCon but I am on the organizing committee and have been for many years, because I believe in it.

 This is FaffCamp producer Amy Snively, associate producer Lauren McCullough and Peter K. O'Connell (me), the sponsorship guy at FaffCamp 2013

This is FaffCamp producer Amy Snively, associate producer Lauren McCullough and Peter K. O’Connell (me), “the sponsorship guy” at FaffCamp 2013

FaffCamp and FaffCon have directly helped my voice-over business and here’s how I think it can help yours:

1. FaffCamp presents interactive and expert advice on performance, technology and business management from vetted industry leaders. All of this information is specifically tailored to the voice-over business because the people presenting it are working in the voice-over business

2. FaffCamp is like Voice-Over College. FaffCamp brings together a whole lot professionally and financially successful voice-over talents. Many of these folks are past Faffers who have both learned a lot and shared a lot at Faff events. Bottom line: walking and talking between sessions, at meals and in other social times is basically like going to Voice-Over College. If you have questions – the answers are likely at FaffCamp.

3. You’re surrounded by people who understand you. Either you are today or want to be someone who sits in a booth all day and talks to him/herself. You’re not normal and neither are FaffCamp attendees, cause we do the same thing. We understand the professional and personal challenges of being a performer, a small business owner and bread winner. You got questions? Very likely we’ve got experienced answers and the meter is NOT running.

One last piece of advice: Go.

female voice talents – there may be an opportunity for you


News from All Access today reported that National Public Radio is dropping their current underwriting voice talent. They have one in the interim but it sounds like they may be willing to audition other voices. They seem to want a female voice. Go get ’em, ladies (and no I don’t know where to send you — you have to do SOME work here).

Now while you ladies are practicing saying “This is NPR. National Public Radio” I’d like to address this change of voice talent at NPR.

The long time underwriting voice talent for NPR was a gentleman named Frank Tavares, who had been the underwriting voice talent for a reported 31 years. He was great but a change was made and that’s showbiz.

The network’s idea, it would seem, was to insert a cost-saving move while also vocally changing things up a bit by adding a female voice. OK, no problem there.

Auditions were held and the winning voice talent was an actress named Sabrina Farhi, who started on NPR in October 2013.

Her NPR underwriting reads were awful. Dreadful. Like nails on an angry chalkboard.

And none of the bad NPR reads were her fault. Repeat, NONE of them! I can prove it.

I’d heard Sabrina’s underwriting reads and could not get past the horrible, robotic read she voiced. This was the winner? Didn’t anyone else hear how tone deaf and unlistenable these underwriting reads sounded?

So after a while, during the few times I actually listened to NPR, I just switched away during the underwriting reads. Not what the network wanted, I’m sure. But I assumed it was just my professional ear not being able to grasp what the network was looking for. Maybe I was missing the musicality of it all. Certainly, I’d been wrong before (I told myself) and maybe I’m wrong on this.

Well, given the announced change, I guess not.

However, after reading tonight’s news on the change at NPR, I went to Sabrina Farhi’s web site and listened to her commercial voice-over demo. I couldn’t figure out how this voice got hired!

Upon further investigation, I rule as follows:

Sabrina Farhi has a wonderful voice which offers a clean, thoughtful interpretation of copy. The voice I heard on the TIAA CREF commercial was NOT the read I heard for the NPR underwriting voice-overs.

This woman is a talented voice actress with real chops who, if she was directed to use that TIAA CREF voice on the NPR underwriting reads, would and probably should still be employed today. On a side note, she like me has terrible trouble pronouncing the word “statistically”. And so if she’s anything like me, she’s an amazing voice talent! 😉

So my professional experience leads me to believe that it’s not the voice talent that’s at fault in this case, it’s the producers.

Yup, somebody either in underwriting production or in the underwriting department directed Sabrina to read in a monotone, cold and oblivious way that was evidently unlistenable to more people than just me.

The underwriting voice for NPR has to have a certain authority to it, yes, but NPR (more than any broadcast network) has a kind of humanism attached to it (in my opinion, anyway) that needs to be conveyed in the voice of the radio network. Frank did a great job doing that and Sabrina probably could have too if someone was directing her correctly.

So now it’s been announced that voice talent Jessica Hansen will serve as NPR’s underwriting announcer in a trail run beginning this month. Here’s hoping that she gets a new director who better understands voice-over direction, voice talents in general and the NPR brand.

you don’t replace a legend, you become one

The late Don Pardo, announcer on NBC's Saturday Night Live

The late Don Pardo, announcer on NBC’s Saturday Night Live

He’s not asking my advice but if Darrell Hammond did, those would be my words as he steps in to become Saturday Night Live’s new announcer following the death this past August of legendary NBC announcer Don Pardo.

He’ll create his own style and that’s as it should be.

He’s a wonderful choice (since they decided not to pick –or audition–me) and I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks so.

Requiescat in Pace Don Pardo

Legendary NBC Announcer Don Pardo

Legendary NBC Announcer Don Pardo

It’s unfortunate that two successive blog posts are remembrances of the dead. First Robin Williams and now legendary NBC announcer Don Pardo.

But the emotions for me surrounding the news regarding these two talented people could not be more different.

Of course when I woke up to the news this morning about Don’s death, I was startled but not shocked. For some reason (maybe I’m a long distance, harmless stalker who is just not that good at this stalking gig) I knew of Don’s age and that he had long been pre-recording his SNL intros. He was 96 years old when he died.

It’s a loss to be sure but that’s a great life run.

And he was STILL WORKING! I remember thinking at the beginning of each recent SNL season “how long can Don keeping doing this?” I got my answer: to the very end.


And kudos to Lorne Michaels for ensuring that as long as Don wanted the job, he had the job.

Yes, I’ve already been asked who I think they’d get to replace Don as the SNL announcer. I don’t know but I’m pretty sure the new person will be shaking in their boots for about a season and a half before feeling comfortable taking over for a voice-over legend.

“Legend”, you say? Oh yes, let me expound.

So let’s go back to early this morning. I learned the news of Don Pardo’s death by listening to an AM news radio station in Buffalo, NY. Not via their network feed, the local announcers read the news of Pardo’s passing.

Digest that for a second.

The local news radio station read a story about the death of an off-camera network announcer.

To be clear, I would not consider today to be a slow news day.

That told me one or two amazing things before I even got out of bed – this was going to be Don Pardo’s national day of respect and possibly a day of respect for the announcing / voice-over industry itself.

I was filled with joy, a much different emotion than I felt last week at this time.

As the day has progressed, I have seen my assumption become fact. I am so happy for Don right now and for everyone in our business. Everybody knows who Don Pardo is – and they should!!!!

He’s been a multi-generational announcer and been an active broadcaster throughout some of the most amazing transitions in broadcasting. Forget SNL for a second, Pardo was the booth announcer at WNBC in New York who broke the news about Kennedy having been shot in Dallas. Wow.

If you’ve never seen the series featuring an interview with Don at emmytvlegends.org (here’s that stalker thing again) there are some great stories from Don about his work in broadcasting. I’m hoping the YouTube views on that puppy skyrocket in the weeks and months ahead.

So today, I will pray for Don’s family and that they experience God’s healing power as they mourn Don’s loss. But I will also smile and enjoy for him (and us) the national tributes Don Pardo is justifiably receiving for his life’s work.

There are two great voice-over Dons in heaven now and I suppose both will have to either audition for the “voice of God” role or just split the week between them.


The day after posting this I received notice of the tribute done last night to Don Pardo by NBC Nightly News Anchor and Managing Editor Brian Williams, who went so far to switch studios during the newscast and deliver the final segment of his broadcast from Studio 8H. Just one word to the Anchor and his co-workers: Classy. See for yourself.

and God made a voice actor

If you saw the Super Bowl, one of the ads you probably watched was for Ram Trucks and featured one of my true broadcasting heros….one of the people whose talents I would quickly exchange for mine, Paul Harvey. Even after his death his talent – which is one the greatest successes in radio and possibly ALL of broadcasting – still resonants.

One small example comes every Friday on Facebook when my friend and great voice talent Vance Elderkin posts “Hello, Facebookians. It’s Friday,” in a tribute to Harvey who every Friday would open his broadcast by saying “Hello Americans. It’s Friday!”

Another more recent example is the recent Meme that has grown from the famous Harvey speech upon which the Ram Truck ad was built – many jobs have been substituted for the Farmers in this Meme so I suppose it should have come as no surprise that voice acting would have its Meme day.

Except there WAS a surprise.

There was a surprise for me in the personal impact I felt experiencing the great writing, quality audio production and perfect performance by John Taylor who clearly sneezes away more talent during allergy season than most of us can hope to attain in our lifetimes. The great ones always make it look and sound easy.

I hope you enjoy his work as much as I have.