As a professed life long learner, one aspect that I really enjoy about all things voice over is the proliferation of information that is available. I am involved with a number of schools and enjoy and appreciate all of them and their various approaches.
Voicetrax SF has a little different angle than other schools I learn from. For over 30 years, Samantha Paris has taken a personal interest in every student who comes through the school's doors. She makes customized recommendations as to which classes she suggests a student take from a study schedule that changes twice a year, offering up approaches to learning that I have not found anywhere else.
I first became aware of Voicetrax SF and Sam about ten years ago through an interview on a local television station. I hadn't really thought about the concept of Voice Acting being a 'thing' until I heard her describe what is involved. I thought "That sounds like fun!" She said that while doing this type of work wasn't easy and that there were people who were naturally talented doing it, that 'talent' could be taught, which meant that the field was open to anyone who cared to work hard and learn. In other words, anyone, (which included me) could become a Voice Actor. I was intrigued!
Although I live in the same general proximity to Voicetrax SF, getting to the actual, physical school would have been a real logistical challenge, so I thought that perhaps I could find an online learning option. Online learning was just starting to be a 'thing' back then which meant that I didn't have many options. I started doing some research for schools and/or programs across the country.
The first one I found that seemed to be 'legit' offered different genres of voiceover, such as various types of narration. I hadn't even thought about a need for voiceover in areas other than commercials or animation and video games, but the school came with a stumbling block for me right off the bat.
They would not even allow you to sign up for their introductory class unless you passed a group interview where an expert would let you know if your voice was suited for voice acting or not. I just kept thinking "What if I have a bad day that day, or get nervous and stumble on my words or don't do-it-just-right or don't come across through the Internet well (this was before Zoom calls became the norm in our lives) or the expert just doesn't like me?
Now that I had made a decision to pursue this concept of Voice Acting, I just didn't like the idea that my dream could be crushed in a 60 minute-or-less group interview.
So I kept searching. I just couldn't get out of my head what Samantha had said about anyone being able to be trained to do this.
I finally found a viable online option, which morphed into another online option headed up by the same person. This connection has served me VERY well and has led me to some incredible coaches and experts and all that I could ever need to make Voice Acting a 'thing' for me. I have also since found other resources and schools and my Voice Acting education base has continued to grow, literally on a daily basis, over the past five years.
Fast forward to earlier this year, about a year into the pandemic. I had been making it a practice to contact Voicetrax SF at least once a year (in addition to checking out their website in between calls) to see if they were offering any classes or webinars online. The answer was always "No. Not as of right now. But we are looking into it. Feel free to check back." So that's what I would do, and to my complete surprise and joy, the answer to my question this time was "Yes, due to the pandemic, all of our classes are currently online!" It was like a dream come true! I signed up for a class pretty much on the spot and have been happily involved with All-Things-Voicetrax-SF ever since!
I didn't realize this when I first started looking into Voice Acting, but there doesn't seem to be any place where you can start your training at Day One in an Intro-to-VO class and in a set amount of time or after checking off a pre-determined list of classes, come out on the other end with a diploma/degree/certificate in Voice Acting. I am of the mindset that if I want to do something, just tell me how to do it and I will work as hard as I can to earn the 'fancy-ily' printed document. There is no school that I am currently aware of where you can do that in VO.
As much as I like to Think-Outside-The-Box and Do-My-Own-Thing and just in general Be-Creative, I DO like structure, mostly so that I know that I'm actually going outside of the box. Plus, I really, really like taking classes and taking tests and checking off on a master list how far I've come in a program or course of study. I have four college degrees plus a handful of certifications and I've LOVED earning each one of them.
Voicetrax SF allows me to come as close as I can to going through a set curriculum. There is no 'fancy-ily' printed document to earn but there IS a list of classes in the curriculum that I can check off. After five years of non-stop learning in VO, I find a lot of comfort in that.
By having levels of classes, that means that, for the most part, when a student is in a class, because you can't just sign-up for any class you want, as Sam has to 'recommend' you for a class first, that you know that all of the other students are pretty much at the same place in their education as you are. There is a range, which is nice, and there is a LOT of sharing of knowledge and helping between more advanced students and newer students, but those classes are identified in the class description, so you are aware of that when you go into the class. But other classes are geared to where a student is in their personal journey, so that the content is appropriate, based on the current level of knowledge. I really like that. When I ask a question, I don't feel like I'm holding anyone else up or going over material that others in the class mastered years ago.
The classes at Voicetrax SF change twice a year, which allows for a continually changing curriculum, and a chance to bring in a variety of guest instructors to be added to their core list. And, as Samantha scrutinizes each student's progress every six months, she and her core staff are able to guide and recommend the best classes for a student to enroll in, based on their current level of voice acting literacy. The core staff also teach at the school, so they, along with the other instructors, give Samantha feedback on how a student performed in a class. Sam teaches and coaches as well, and develops a direct relationship with everyone who enrolls. This level of guidance is built into the Voicetrax SF approach to learning and progression in the program. I really like knowing that I have so many people 'in my court' as I advance on my VO journey!!
I will continue to grow and learn and utilize the many online options that are available to me. Even though I have hit a huge milestone on my VO journey of being able to say (after all these years of taking many classes, sitting through countless webinars, working for hours on end with a variety of coaches, recording multiple professionally recorded demos and submitting many, many auditions) that I am a Working Voice Actor, I will continue on my journey of life-long learning. And I am SO happy that Voicetrax SF is finally, and forever, a huge part of my peregrination.