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2018 Voice Arts® Awards Gala On November 18
To Celebrate Winners And Inspire Service
October 18, 2018

By John Florian
& Martha Kahn

Nominees have been announced and now the voice-over world dresses up for the exciting climax of the 5th Annual Voice Arts® Awards competition - an elegant Gala November 18 at the Warner Bros. Studio's Steven J. Ross Theatre in Burbank, CA, where winners in more than 50 voice-over categories will be named and celebrated. (Gala info and tickets.)

Voice-over award competitions and galas are certainly rewarding ventures, as they bring a community together to review and honor the best. 

Yet this global competition - created and presented by the Society of Voice Arts® and Sciences (SOVAS™) - also beats with a heart that inspires us to excel beyond exceptional performances to serve a broader community with our talents and voices.

SOVAS CEO Rudy Gaskins and board member Joan Baker (pictured) are infusing the Gala with that passionate humanitarian heartbeat as stories from these additional honorees will be heard:
  • Sigourney Weaver, actor, activist, receiving the 2018 Voice Arts® Icon Award;
  • Rosario Dawson, actor, activist, receiving the 2018 Voice Arts® Environmental Award; and
  • Van Jones, TV news commentator and host, author, attorney, activist, receiving the 2018 Muhammad Ali Voice of Humanity Honor.
A day earlier, at SOVAS's annual That's Voiceover Career Expo, November 17 at the Sheraton Universal Hotel - on the grounds of Universal Studios in Hollywood - SOVAS will also inspire with presentation of the J. Michael Collins Academic Scholarship to a deserving voice talent.

For a behind-the-curtain glimpse into this year's awards competition and gala, we asked Rudy and Joan ...

Q: What's new for the Voice Arts Awards competition this year?

Rudy: With an evolving production like this, the real question is, "What isn't new?"

We introduced additional casting categories, audiobook categories in Spanish and an open foreign language category for Outstanding Body of Work. The latter, we hope to see reach many voice actors across cultures and languages.

Also new, and this is very special this year, is the creation of two more paid union jobs. This came in the form of a the national audition SOVAS sponsored for the Muhammad Ali Center - a video about The Champ's legacy and the charitable work of the Ali Center.

This audition drew 1,100 voices from around the world. That's 1,100 actors, and dozens of talent agencies, who learned about the extraordinary work being done by the Muhammad Ali Center and the support the organization needs from the good people who believe in its mission.

What it also did was to create union jobs for voice actors - jobs that would not have otherwise existed. The Muhammad Ali Center, in keeping with Ali's ethics, chose to join us in making this a union project.

That may seem relatively small today, but job creation is a key part of the SOVAS mission. This project not only points the way, but it invites ideas for going further.

Two voice actors, Thembisa Mshaka and Ty Jones, cut through the 1,100 to earn the opportunity to narrate the Muhammad Ali Legacy Video. Their voices will become part of the museum's permanent archive and be on display in the museum and shared the world over. And the actors and the finished work will be highlighted at That's Voiceover!™ Career Expo this year.  

Q: You've also chosen Van Jones as recipient of the annual Muhammad Ali Voice of Humanity Honor ...

Rudy: Yes, in keeping with Muhammad' Ali's legacy of activism and human rights, Van was chosen because of his fight for the same principles in a new generation, where the ring is a global forum.

Van Jones (pictured), as was Ali in his time, is a new kind of social justice warrior for the 21st Century. He has established his voice as a lightning rod for forward thinking endeavors that improve the human condition. The mission of his organization, Dream Corps, and the bright light he has brought to bear on under-served communities, is a beacon of progress and hope. 

Time Magazine understood this when they named him as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. We at SOVAS™ could not agree more, and thus we resolved to present him the Muhammad Ali Voice of Humanity Honor. 

The point of this honor is to expand upon the power of the voice, beyond entertainment, marketing and rhetoric - to remind us all that our voices live in our actions and our courage to stand up for what's good and decent in the world and to champion causes for the less fortunate.

So this honor, points to the legacy that each and every one of has the opportunity to leave behind. The inaugural Muhammad Ali Voice of Humanity Honor was given to Barack Obama and Lonnie Ali. The third person to receive it was legendary documentarian, Ken Burns.

Q: What's your inspiration to create these honors, and what do you hope to achieve through them? 

Joan: We're thrilled to see that that mission is resonating with folks.

The Voice Arts Award is meant to celebrate and encourage the highest achievements in our industry, but we also recognize the opportunity to achieve greater humanitarian engagement with our global sisters and brothers and with regard to the planet upon which we depend for our survival.

We hope to achieve more of what the honorees are already exemplifying through their extraordinary work - to hold them up as a compass for the forward.

SOVAS™ is in a unique position to demonstrate the influence of the human voice beyond art, entertainment, marketing and rhetoric. We can put forth our voices as a legacy of good deeds.

Q: What's your biggest challenge in presenting this annual competition and awards gala?

Rudy: The challenges are so interconnected and interdependent that it's hard to identify one as the biggest.

Easily, raising the annual budget is a huge challenge, even though it carries with it the benefit of having to continually define what we are and what we can be. As we do a better job of defining our value proposition, funding stabilizes, we can focus more on content development and job creation.

Another challenge is that we are a very small board that interacts directly with no fewer than 350 individuals and businesses throughout the year. Each person represents numerous phone calls and correspondence, and group meetings, and that's not including the basic administration load of running a nonprofit.

Then, there are the contests and scholarship programs, which we are committed to growing to include more people. The jurors, alone, represent 140 people this year, and that single, critical element takes considerable planning and monitoring.

Q: What else should we know?

Joan: Many people support SOVAS, and they do so with great love, admiration and pride.

We hear from these people all the time, through personal letters and social media.

Since you asked about challenges, it is their faith and encouragement that keeps us strong in the face of any sort of adversity. These are the hardworking scale and non-union actors who choose inspiration, dreams and achievement over skepticism.

For us, these supporters and openhearted souls are the spiritual gurus that keep us going.  Because of them, there is opportunity for all of us to be part of something good and transformational. 


For details and ticket info to the November 18 Voice Arts Awards Gala, and the November 17 That's Voiceover Career Expo, visit

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Comments (2)
11/6/2018 at 11:04 AM
As an aspiring voice artist, I am so excited about attending my very first That's Voice Over Expo and Gala. I can't wait to learn what this industry has to offer and I hope to have what it takes to be successful in the industry!
10/20/2018 at 7:56 AM
This is an awesome article of insight of what SOVAS has to offer to the voiceover industry and the public by sharing thier purpose and behind the scenes of That's Voice Over. I am in the beginning stages of trying to become a voice actor and SOVAS has started me on track with my lessons and Hope's of having a career in voiceover one day. On another note, the struggle is real but, I will stay true to trying.
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