Meet The Voice-Over Guys is a series of blog posts that will allow readers to learn a little bit more about the male voice talents who are a part of MVO: The Voice-Over Guys.
From the Windy City, MVO: The Voice-Over Guys is pleased to introduce you to one of our favorite Chicagoans, Tom Test.
VOICE-OVER IS A PRETTY UNIQUE CAREER CHOICE, TOM – HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
Nobody in my family had ever been an actor, musician, singer or any sort of creative performer, so I am certainly not following in any footsteps! I found out in college that I was a natural at public speaking, and after I graduated, I first found out about voice-over as a career. I was intrigued, but felt it was a pipe dream for me – so I followed the career path of a BBA. After a “brief yet miserable” time in corporate America, I left looking for something that gave me hope for happiness in my work/life balance.
I moved to Chicago in Fall of 1988 and took an adult education class called “How to Make Money Doing Voice-Overs,” and decided to give it a chance. I took Voice-over, Improv and Acting lessons, and made my first demo in 1989. Not a single agent was interested in repping me on the basis of my first demo. Not surprising – I wasn’t very good at my craft yet!
But I persisted.
I slowly became good enough to compete after several years of hosting weekly (or even bi-weekly) VO practice groups. It took me nearly 7 years of waiting on tables (and 3 demos) before I was working often enough to do VO work full-time. That was in 1996, and it was a struggle for awhile. But ever since I got married to my wonderful wife Jill in 2000, my career has thrived. 2014 has been my best year yet – by far. (Oh, and I have since taught that class “How to Make Money Doing Voice-Overs” myself a few times!).
WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER, WERE THERE ANY VOICE-OVER TALENTS WHO INFLUENCED YOU OR WHO YOU ADMIRED? WHY/HOW?
I never even thought of voice-over until my early 20s. I don’t think there is any one person that I emulated. But I have been influenced by some very talented people who attended my voice-over practice groups that I ran in the 1990s.
WITH WHICH BRANDS WOULD PEOPLE MOST ASSOCIATE YOUR VOICE?
I am often cast as the voice of hospitals/health care organizations, higher education and banks. I’ve been the voice of Olivet Nazarene University here in Chicago for the past 3 years (radio, TV and Pandora). Right now I am voicing spots for Blue Cross Blue Shield Medicare Advantage Plans in 5 states.
WHERE WAS/IS THE MOST UNIQUE PLACE SOMEONE WOULD HEAR YOUR VOICE?
As the voice of a little boy skating on an icy pond with a little girl, part of a Precious Moments porcelain figurine. They actually had me sing in a little boy voice. I can’t even sing with my own voice! Not sure if that made it to market or not….
IF YOU HAD TO PICK YOUR FAVORITE KIND OF VOICE-OVER PROJECT, WHAT WOULD THAT BE?
A radio spot with a quirky sense of humor. I like husband/wife dialogue. But now that my 10 year old daughter has a few VO credits under her belt, I’m dying to do some dad/daughter dialogue!
WHAT ONE BOOK HAVE YOU READ THAT REALLY HELP SHAPE YOUR LIFE, EITHER PERSONALLY OR PROFESSIONALLY? HOW?
“The Road Less Travelled” by M. Scott Peck. It begins with the line, “Life is hard.” Reading this book when I was in high school was my first step on a journey of self-awareness, and it led to other sorts of personal growth work. For example, I have been a member of a weekly Men’s group for over 20 years. This inner work has helped me find and be myself, more easily connect emotionally with other people (hence my slogan, “The Voice You Trust”), and is the biggest single factor in my personal and professional success.