Heading back to your hometown can be stressful. All those fraught memories and family dynamics and classmates who never left and still cattily give you the side-eye as you drive down Main Street … depending on who’s still there and why you’re returning, homecoming can be a recipe for migraines and shoulder-knots. But I recently found out that going home—if only for a long weekend— can do a lot for the spirit.
In early March, I had the opportunity to speak with students at my former high school about the business of voice overs and my path to becoming a voice over performer. Now, I’m originally from a small town that would have been the perfect setting for the show “Friday Night Lights” if it had taken place in the Midwest. When I was in high school, the extracurricular focus was most certainly not on theatre or performance. We had one school play per year and a lot of football. Seriously, I mean a LOT of football. So, as you can imagine, I was pretty nervous about speaking with the students, wondering if they’d be totally bored by an artsy alumna.
Happy to report that my old school now has a drama club, a video production class, and many more programs that encourage and support students who march to their own creative drum. I met kids who were shooting their own videos for a school program and others writing scripts. Some were trying to discover their own voices by recording voice overs, and I had the chance to work with a few of them on some passages of commercial copy, coaching for tone and delivery. I was excited (and a little relieved) to find my old school absolutely teeming with creativity!
When I spoke to the students at SHS I was so impressed by their inquisitive natures and fearlessness. More than a few were game to try reading commercial voice over copy in front of their peers, and their openness was incredibly impressive. When I was in high school, I remember wanting to melt into the hallway walls. It took me a long time and a lot of practice to work up the nerve to perform in front of others. But these students were primed and ready to take chances. They got up, stepped behind the mic, and happily experimented.
I’ve been teaching eager students how to become successful voice actors for 5 years, and my teaching style is a blend of various things I’ve learned from coaches, casting directors, and personal experience behind the mic. I like to shake things up when I approach copy, and make my students try everything from singing the copy before diving in, to using their bodies to help inform the read, to getting clear on the person they should imagine they’re speaking to. I’ve had plenty of adult coaching students feel reluctant to try my suggested techniques, so when I was prepping myself for working with the students at SHS I thought for sure they’d be hesitant. Um….no! Whether it was reading the copy as Darth Vader to get out their heads, or singing the copy Opera style, these kids were all hands on deck.
My wish for these students is that the enthusiasm and inquisitive nature they brought to our day together stays with them for as long as possible! Their energy, bravery, and eagerness was totally inspiring. I wish I could’ve bottled it up and taken it back to New York with me.
Turns out the old adage is wrong and Jon Bon Jovi is right; “Who Says You Can’t Go Home?”