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The 2019 Voice Arts® Awards Gala:
Winners & Voices That Touched Our Hearts
November 21, 2019

By Martha Kahn

On Sunday night, November 17, the voice-over community celebrated scores of the world's most brilliant artists with coveted Voice Arts® Awards - the "Oscars" of the voice-over industry - at the 6th Annual Voice Arts® Awards Gala at the Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, CA.

It was truly a night of glitz and glamour - and a common thread: gratitude. Gratitude for the opportunity and ability to speak for a living.

Sponsored by the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences® (SOVAS®), this annual awards competition honors not only voice actors, but also entire teams including creative directors, producers, marketing executives, copywriters, audio engineers, casting directors and spoken work artists - in English and Spanish - as well as an individual for Outstanding Body of Work.

To SOVAS CEO Rudy Gaskins and Chief Communications Officer Joan Baker (pictured) we are ever thankful for giving our industry a night to shine and celebrate our greatness, our humanity and our dignity on a global level. 


The Gala's pre-party was abuzz as friends gathered for a glass of wine, a little nosh and an opportunity to shine on the Red Carpet.  

The Electric Angels String Quartet welcomed us and began the evening with beautiful music - and the almost four-hour ceremony with 71 categories was off ... filled with laughs, tears and lots of emotion.  

The evening's emotion was pretty much summed up when Christi Bowen (pictured) accepted her award for Outstanding Political Announcement - Attack Ad, Best Voiceover, telling us:
"I was up against my friend Bev Standing. We are dear friends and are two of the nicest people around and I thought it was so funny that we were both nominated for political attack ads!

"But our great democracy allows us to say things … and we are paid to say them … even in political attack ads. That is the beauty of America!

"Remember your rights and don't forget to vote. I'm Christi Bowen and I approve this message!" 
While we laughed, we recognized that many friends were pitted against each other in this competition, and we also knew that we are ALL winners, because we're allowed to use our voice to do what we love. 

Voice Over! Voice Over! The kindest most compassionate arm of Show Business.  

What I really want to convey here is how we, as a community came together at the Gala.

Lots of quotes follow because these are the things that touched my heart. The struggles, triumphs, joys and even sorrows. Please forgive me if I did not include yours. There were just so many. But rest assured, your voice touched our hearts.  


Starting the presentations, actor/producer Katee Sackhoff noted that when we signed up for this job, we signed up for a life of "no's" - yet that we as voice actors MUST KEEP GOING. That every NO is one step closer to a YES. 

Her dad told her that 99% of the people won't stick around … that we need to be the 1%.  

Katee, who on Saturday at SOVAS' That's Voiceover! career event was presented with the Backstage Vanguard Award for Media and Entertainment, is best known for her role as Lieutenant Kara "Starbuck" Thrace on Battlestar Galactica . And I believe it was Katee who said, "We need to reflect on energy, skill and innovation of what we need to bring to our craft."

And we had quite the chuckle when Adam Harris Wolman accepted his Outstanding Promo Demo, Best Voiceover award, saying "Thanks to whoever is going to sign me now and make me some money!"   


Unfortunately, actor Ving Rhames (pictured) had a family matter and could not be there to accept this year's Voice Arts® Icon Award.

Yet he sent a beautiful video expressing his gratitude that such an award even exists and is patterned after the incredible James Earl Jones for his contributions.

And Ving thanked SOVAS for developing such a high level for voice actors. 


It was also a great night for women in voice-over, and Rebecca Davis (pictured) was a glittering example! Upon accepting her award for Outstanding Movie Trailer, Best Voiceover, Rebecca chimed:  
"People used to say women's voices don't come through and we can't do trailers. And guess what? We bleeping can!" 
Wild applause and cheers!  


P.J. Ochlan, winner of the Audiobook Narration - Classics, Best Voiceover award, told us:
"They say that feeling competent at what you do is the key to happiness. Thanks for the happiness!" 
Isn't feeling competent as a voice actor what we all strive for?  

When Christian Lanz accepted his award for Outstanding Narration - TV, Film or Web, Best Voiceover, he told us about his three-year old, who'd had a terrible croup, and Christian was at a loss as to how to get him to sleep. So Christian played his narration demo about Wild Peru for National Geographic.

Lo and behold, the sound of his papa's voice lulled his baby to sleep! Christian was awed that his son was mesmerized by his daddy's tones.

Ah, the power of the human voice!  

It was at this point that I overheard my audience neighbor comment: "They have the best speeches here!" Turns out, my neighbor was Petri Hawkins-Byrd, better known as Byrd, the bailiff  from Judge Judy!

And he was right. The speeches were most touching, funny and relevant.  

When Kevin Motley, owner of TGMD Talent, introduced the Voice Arts® Lifetime Achievement Award to Peter Cullen (pictured, with Joan Baker), he said that Peter had a voice that connected, that came to life … a voice that set him apart from all others.

He added that Peter had mastered the art of connection, effort, courage and skill with honesty, integrity, dignity and compassion. Wow! 

And what did Peter Cullen do when accepting the award? 

We'll he'd promised his little boy that he would do a knock-knock joke. So,
"Who's there? Tank. Thank Who? You're welcome!"  
Peter went on to share how his brother Larry had been a military officer in Vietnam, had been awarded several Purple Hearts, and was Peter's hero. When Peter was going to audition for a hero role, his brother told him:
"If you're gonna be a hero, be a real hero. Be strong enough to be gentle, be courageous, but humble."
Those words stayed with Peter when he went into that audition. He took that softness, opened his mouth and said: "My name is Optimus Prime." The rest is history!  

Peter added:
"There is nothing more gratifying than the community that makes up voice over. My hat goes off to Rudy and Joan and all the years gone by … and to all the actors that weren't recognized in those years." 
It's true, we are but one large community. When one wins…we all win.  


Upon presenting his wife Manuela Testolini with the Muhammad Ali Voice Of Humanity Honor, singer, songwriter and actor Eric Beńet said: 
"If she were not my wife, I would want to know her. 

"Pride in who my wife is, is just the beginning. Manuela is touched and inspired by giving children who have less, more. Her heart inspires mine!"  
Accepting the award along with her two daughters (pictured), Manuela said she was honored to be considered the voice of humanity and to have Mohammad Ali's name attached to such a high honor.  

As the founder and head of the In A Perfect World Foundation, she has spent much of the past 20 years working to build effective, solutions-oriented approaches to empower the next generation.

Under her leadership, the foundation has created and supported programs that provide education, mentoring and artistic expression to under-served and at-risk youth around the world.  

Manuela went on to say that the next generation of change-makers need access to education and the arts to become the next generation of compassionate leaders

"I believe that little by little, becomes a lot!" she told us.  


A highlight of the night for me was when Kabir Singh won the award for Outstanding Spoken Word or Storytelling, Best Performance, for his performance in Love Trumps Over Hate

Kabir said he didn't have a relationship with love when he was young. But today, he is a product of love.
"I have been shown a lot of love, and I greatly appreciate it and thank you for showing me a lot of love."  
And remember Katee's father's observation about 99% giving up? 

When receiving his award for Outstanding Animation Character - TV or Web, Best Voiceover, Jamie Kelton shared how a coach had told him:
"No one will ever cast you in a leading role for two hours because no one will ever listen to that voice for two hours." 
To that, Jamie proclaimed with award in hand: "This is for you!"  


The Voice Arts® Environmental Award was awarded to Vanessa Huac (pictured), the Emmy Award-winning journalist and senior correspondent for Noticias Telemundo, and co-founder of the Sachamama Foundation, "building thriving and sustainable communities one heart at a time."

From social, cultural and political events to natural disasters, Vanessa has been a valuable source of information for U.S. Hispanics, reporting the news from right from where it happens.  

"Climate change is very real and people who are the most vulnerable are the most affected," she said. 

She was met with loud cheers and clapping for her work on environmental issues and using her voice to make our planet a better place for not only us, but our next generation.  


How reassuring was it to ...
  • hear casting director Jill Kershaw say, when accepting the award for Outstanding Casting - Commercial - TV or Radio: "Even if you don't book it, we hear you, we admire you and we root for you!" 
  • hear voice actor Angely Baez say that he is the first talent from the Dominican Republic to ever receive an award (Audiobook Narration - Fiction, Best Spanish Voiceover);
  • see Everett Sundholm and Cassie Glow (pictured) - the first youths to win for Outstanding Toy Character, Best Voiceover;
  • hear Eduardo Ruales, winner of the Outstanding Public Service Announcement, Best Spanish Voiceover award, note that this is not a competition but an opportunity to shine. Also, that it took him 20 years to reach this goal and not to give up!  
And then there was Marios Gavrillis, who won two awards - Outstanding Dubbing, Foreign Language - TV or Film and Outstanding Body of Work - Foreign Language. He had moved to Los Angeles only two weeks ago, has no representation, and only created business cards for the SOVAS gala. His proclamation: "One supreme super power and that is gratitude!" 

There's that "G" word again!  


Congratulations also go to Dave Fennoy (pictured) for his performance of "March, the story of The Civil Rights movement, as told by Congressman John Lewis" for Learning Ally.

Learning Ally provides audio content to nearly half a million kids with reading challenges like dyslexia, visual impairment, and blindness; allowing them to experience the pure joy of independent reading.

As noted in a Facebook post from Jenn Henry, Dave's effort in contribution, and that of all Learning Ally narrators, is more than "narrating an audiobook," it is legacy as these words are passed to the eager ears of those who will carry them on.

And then there's the team of J. Michael Collins and AJ McKay (pictured) that carried home more than 10 combined awards for their involvement in the Commercial, Political, Production and Demo categories - including J. Michael's own award for Outstanding Copywriting - Commercial, Promo or Trailer, Best Copywriting.


The evening's final award - Outstanding Body of Work, Best Voice Actor - was presented to Zehra Fazal. Earlier, she had also won for Outstanding Promo Campaign - TV or Web, Best Voiceover

Zehra's words of inspiration to us were powerful:
"We are all storytellers, we are all empowering. People see themselves in our art! Your voice is necessary!"  
And I would be remiss if I did not mention the gala's flawless live announce prowess of Frankie Divita, who was the epitome of grace under pressure. Almost four hours of live announce. And no mistakes. Go Frankie! 

Now I leave you with the words I began with:
  • Gratitude.
  • To be able to speak for a living.  
As Christi Bowen so aptly put it: "The current times are under attack, and it is our great democracy that allows us to say the things we say and not go to jail for it." 

For more about the Voice Arts® Awards and SOVAS, please visit
Martha Kahn is a voice actor based in Southern California and well known in the voice over industry for her participation in numerous groups, businesses and activities. She is also owner of Kahn Kids Voiceover, where she coaches voice-over youth, and is the marketing and sales director for VoiceOverXtra.

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Comments (9)
Juliette Myers
12/5/2019 at 12:24 PM
Thank you to Joan Baker and Rudy Gaskins for creating a space for VO artists to shine and be recognized! Thank you Martha for a great informative fun recap of events. You walked us though wonderfully!
11/24/2019 at 3:03 PM
Thank you for taking the time to allow others to be heard through your writing. I appreciate it.
Rebecca Zacharda
11/22/2019 at 7:48 PM
Wow, Martha! Great writing and awesome photo of you! So proud of the work you are doing, my friend!
Katie Flamman
11/22/2019 at 12:55 PM
Wonderful article, Martha!
You summed up the spirit of the evening beautifully. Wasn’t it magical?!
Congratulations to you and to all the nominees and winners.
We storytellers have a precious gift, and where better to celebrate that, than at the Voice Arts Awards - a place to share our talents, support each other and be thankful that we have the best job in the world!
11/22/2019 at 11:54 AM
Great article, Martha! I opted out of the festivities this year but am hungrily gobbling up all the stories and photos that I can. It is such a fun and affirming event! I enjoyed hanging out in the background this year (in sweats, with no makeup lol) and/but definitely plan on getting back to it next year!

Great sassy picture of you on the red carpet, too, Martha! Nice gams!!!
Dennis Kleinman
11/22/2019 at 11:35 AM
Martha, what a wonderful recap of this very special event. The warmth, love and specialness of That's Voiceover and The Voice Arts Awards 2019 just keeps growing and I could never imagine this incredible industry without this annual get together and celebration of all the phenomenal talent that exists. You nailed it in all your representations of the events.
Juliette Gray
11/22/2019 at 2:02 AM
Fantastic article, Martha. Congratulations, and it was especially nice hearing all those anecdotes from the awards as unfortunately I couldn’t be there.

Bev Standing
11/21/2019 at 10:26 PM
Thank you, Martha, for summing up such a spectacular event so beautifully.

Congratulations to everyone involved, from behind the camera (and mics) to on stage!
11/21/2019 at 7:31 PM
Great article, Martha! We are thrilled to be reviewed by a true insider of the voiceover business, but also one who fully connects (heart and soul) with SOVAS' broader mission to evoke and encourage a passion for using our voices to have a lasting impact on the enhancement of quality of life for all people and the planet. Clearly, you heard the most important message of all.

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