sign up for our

Home Shop Subscribe Advertise Articles Directories Classifieds Calendar FAQs Contact Us Login

Voice Arts Awards® Gala Celebrates Winners,
Voice-Over Community, Craft And Humanity
November 21, 2018

By Martha Kahn

The 5th Annual Voice Arts® Awards Gala "We all have a voice. Celebrate it."

That's how the Gala's program cover read at this grand event November 18 at the Warner Bros. Studio in Burbank, CA. And this year's glamorous affair - like the past four - did not disappoint! 

The Gala is the culmination of the annual Voice Arts® Awards global competition presented by the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences (SOVAS), to honor the best talent in the voice-over industry.

But before we get to the glitz and glamour of the evening, it was so like SOVAS CEO Rudy Gaskins to welcome us with a message of the "painful dichotomy of the evening."  

Rudy acknowledged that while we came together all glammed out for a night of honoring voice-over achievement, we were also witness, here in California, to the recent shootings in Thousand Oaks and the deadliest wildfires in California history.  

We were asked to take the hand of our neighbor and honor the human connection: the law enforcement; the firefighters and those who lost their homes and lives. The request was met with immediate and quiet reverence and nary a dry eye.  


Now on to the Voice Arts® Awards, which Good Morning America referred to as "the Oscars of voiceover acting."

Enter the fabulously talented, dazzling and divine Joan Baker, the voice actor/coach and SOVAS board member who got the evening started.  A year's worth of planning, hard work and dedication to the voice community coming to fruition!

It was a night of inclusivity, diversity and emotion as winners were announced.

Many accepted their awards with the recognition that they came from immigrant parents, including the 2018 Voice Arts Icon Award for Arts and Humanities recipient Sigourney Weaver, who noted that she learned the power of the human voice from her mother. 

Weaver (pictured with David Oyelowo, Joan Baker and Rudy Gaskins) explained that in England during World War II, people would live in complete darkness while waiting for the "all clear" signal. The voices in the dark were what helped people make it through that darkness. 

She emphasized the power of storytelling, adding:
"People outside this room have no idea how much work goes into this job, and I have the utmost respect for what YOU do (and then correcting herself) - what WE do!"
And Weaver said this award was one that cried for change, stating "We must make that long hard climb together."  

She had been introduced by one of the most sought-after actors today, the amazingly talented actor David Oyelowo, who brought admiration, respect and honor to and for our recipient.  


One of the first awards of the night was received by voice actor Jason Linere White for Outstanding Promo Campaign TV or Web, Best Voiceover. 

Jason began by telling us that "dreams do come true" and advised to never "let anyone tell you that you can't do something." 

Earlier in his life, Jason had a vision of standing on a stage and receiving an award - this was his moment in time.  

When Pete Gustin accepted his award for Outstanding Movie Trailer, he explained that he had been legally blind since the age of 19. 

Wanting to become a professional voice actor, he went to an agency that told them they would be embarrassed to rep a blind voice actor. Not shy, Pete got in touch with the late, great voice actor Don LaFontaine, who upon hearing this story - true to Don's form and character - took Pete under wing and became Pete's mentor. The rest is history.  


Which brings me to one of the main themes of the evening, beautifully stated by two-time Voice Arts Award winner Alyson Steel: "This is the best community in the world!"

It was a sentiment echoed by nearly every award recipient.  

Upon receiving her award for Audiobook Narration, Romance, Tara Langella thanked coach and winner of the Outstanding Promo Demo Reel award Dave Fennoy.

"To me, the best teachers are those that have the ability to provoke, challenge and undo the mental barriers that block us from our true voice," she said. "Thank you, Dave Fennoy for your innate ability to find the uniqueness in a student and help them to discover it for themselves." 

What a beautiful tribute to a man who has generously given to our industry in so many capacities for many many years!


Accomplished maestro, music director, conductor and composer for a diverse range of musical superstars, Michael Beardon introduced the recipient of this year's Muhammad Ali Voice of Humanity Honor: author, activist and CNN host Van Jones

Beardon told us: "Van has a voice that demands to be heard - with such depth, such humanity. He inspires a lot of people and pisses off a lot of people - kind of like Ali."  

And Jones (pictured on the Red Carpet with Joan Baker and Rudy Gaskins) did not hold back in his acceptance comments. 

Fiercely passionate about the state of the world, he said that "in the fight between good and evil, it's very important we be good.  The biggest danger is that we become what we are fighting and that when we do that, we have lost who we are."

His message was very intentional and very clear: "You only have so many heartbeats - use them well."   

Jones then panned the audience and told us: "You all suck at one thing. You suck at hating people."

He encouraged us all to continue to suck at hating people! And we were spellbound.


When actor Jean Elie took the podium to announce awards, he first said that as both an African American and a Latino man, he wanted to express appreciation for all of the diversity in the room and in the industry. 

And diversity was clearly evident among this year's winners (see winners).

When accepting the award for his executive producer role for Rosi Amador's win for Outstanding Commercial Demo Reel, J. Michael Collins proclaimed that in this year of diversity, this was "a Latina demo that pulls no punches!"  

There were so many gems worth repeating that I can't remember them all!

But memorable advice from Radio Imaging winner Issa Lopez was: "On those slow days, feed your faith because your fear will starve.". 

And Julia Whelan, winner of her own audiobook narration title said: "It's all about empathy - storytelling and story keepers - hold them close and hold them tight!" 

For after all, are we not all story tellers? Isn't that what Sigourney Weaver was telling us from the start?  


And then there was actress Rosario Dawson - fierce, bold, full of passion and teary eyed. 

Introduced by filmmaker Rob Herring, who directed the film The Need To Grow, which was voiced and executive produced by Dawson, she emotionally spoke on the need to address the planet's healthy soil. 

Her plea to assist in the regeneration of our planet's dying soils and in the restoration of the Earth was profound. Dawson was aptly chosen as recipient of the Voice Arts Environmental Award.  


Presentations were made to scores of winners, but we all recognized that the entire Gala audience was a gathering of exceptional talent.

The night would not have been complete without remembering those we had lost in the past two years. 

As the vocal stylings of The Broadway Boys (photo by Bruce B. Gordon) sang the powerful Defying Gravity, too many names to remember flashed on the screen. Among them were Charlotte Rae, John Maloney, Anthony Bourdain, Burt Reynolds, Robin Leach, Chuck McCann, Jerry Van Dyke, Margot Kidder, Glenn Campbell, Rose Marie and Miguel Ferrer - along with a slew of animators and talent. 

But leaving us with nary a dry eye was real-life super hero Stan Lee, who will forever be missed in our voice-over industry.  


Just as she had begun the evening, Joan Baker and her pal Pat Fraley ended the evening by presenting the Outstanding Body of Work award to Sylvia Villagran, who delivered a highly emotional and appreciative acceptance to not only the Spanish community but the VO community at large. Her message:
"As the daughter of immigrant parents - work hard and be of service. And sometimes the strongest voice you can use with difficult clients is your inside voice."  

Presentations were made to scores of winners, but we all recognized that the entire Gala audience was a gathering of exceptional talent.

Congratulations to all winners and nominees!

And big congratulations to the effervescent Joan Baker and Rudy Gaskins for doing it again. You have brought our community together in solidarity, community and love. You have allowed us to honor our craft, celebrate our dignity and express our creativity.  

I leave you with Sylvia's message to her son:
"Be the narrator of your own life. No one will ever do it better!" 
Martha Kahn is a voice actor based in Southern California and well known in the voice over industry for her participation in numerous groups and activities. She is also Marketing and Sales Director for VoiceOverXtra.

Email: and
Webs: and

Your Daily Resource For Voice-Over Success
Tell Us What YOU Think!
Please Note: Since we check for spam, there will be a slight delay in the actual posting of your comment.
Your Name:
Your Email Address (will not be published):
Your Comment:
Your Comment:
Security code:     
Comments (1)
11/28/2018 at 4:20 AM
A wonderfully written article that captures the true nature of the event. It was an amazing evening.
Back to Articles
Get your bi-weekly dose here ... all things VO!
With Sean Daeley and Paul Stefano - check it out!
On Michael Langsner's Voice-Over Roadmap Podcast
Inspiring interviews help your VO career