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The slight brunette approaches the microphone, steeling herself as she casts a glance at the script sitting on a clear acetate music stand.

“Bow, my servants,” she says. She clears her throat and repeats the line — commandingly, imperiously. And then —

“Bow, my servants!” she bellows. “Kill them all!”

It’s just another day of murder and mayhem at San Francisco’s Voice One, the voice-over acting school where today’s game plan clearly involves some Lannister-level Game of Thrones-ian menace. Depending on the day and class, those voices could just as easily be channeling pipsqueak toons, perky ad copy or quirky fictional personalities.

Some of these students are lawyers. Others are former techies. There’s even a professional dancer or two among the ranks learning to create funny voices, interesting characters or highly accented international men — or women — of mystery.

Voice One owner Sally Clawson was one of those professional dancers back in 2002, dancing with the Bay Area-based Margaret Jenkins Dance Company when she was sidelined for a few months.

“I was on tour in Chicago, and I injured my hip,” she remembers. “I started answering phones while healing, and people told me I had a nice voice.”

So when she picked up a magazine at her doctor’s office and started reading about Voice One and its founder, Elaine Clark, it seemed like a sign.

“I checked (the school) out, and I loved it,” Clawson says. “I studied with Elaine for about a year, made my demo and met a talent agent in one of the classes – and I got signed and started booking work.”

She’s been there ever since. This year, Clawson bought the training school from Clark, who still runs a recording studio on site.

Of course, voice-over acting — where you hear the voice, but don’t see the person — is nothing new. It’s long been a mainstay in the entertainment business. Think Tom Hanks playing the voice of Woody in “Toy Story” and every movie trailer that starts with the words “In a world…”

It was a bit of a niche field in 1986, when Clark founded Voice One on the bottom floor of the KPIX building, says Clawson, whose own resume includes voice-over work for Toyota, Pixar, Apple, Google and Lucas Film.

“Elaine was an actress – a theater and teaching major – and started doing voice over. People started asking her for advice and tips, so she started teaching,” Clawson says. “She built it up to what it is now, really the premier school in San Francisco for voice over and acting.”

The voice-over realm has expanded dramatically in the last decade. It’s not just movies and TV, now. These narrators drive audio books, podcasts and video games, and they voice Alexa, Siri and your car’s navigation system.

“With this digital age, there’s so much. Audio books are all the rage right now. Our devices speak to us,” Clawson says.

And those serious, baritone “in a world” voices no longer resonate.

“That announcer sound – that purely technical, deep, male voice that speaks perfectly – is an antiquated sound,” she says. “(Instead) it’s really real voices, very diverse voices. The skill is learning the technique, then learning how to vary the technique to sound real.”

Ironic as it is, it takes considerable training and practice to sound authentic. Hence the range of classes that students and alumni, such as Angeli Fitch, take. Voice-over requires a specific skill set. You have to know how to hold a listener’s attention, breathe life into characters and do different kinds of voices. There are articulation exercises, dialect and accent mastery and recording skills to learn. Step into a soundproof WhisperSoft recording studio, and it’s just you and the microphone, says Fitch. It helps to have a coach, no matter how long you’ve been doing this.

A criminal defense trial attorney, Fitch does a range of voice-over work, including corporate narration videos for companies such as Intel, Panasonic, Salesforce, Mastercard and Coldwell Banker. The Pacific resident says she was drawn to both the business end and “the craft of voice acting and all the different areas, corporate narration, animation, commercial, audio books.”

“I took all the core curriculum classes, so I could explore where I thought my voice fit in the industry,” says Fitch, who now teaches a class on the business aspects of voice-over. “The essence of voice over is acting, not the sound of your voice. It is important to get continuous coaching, as there may be things that I’m not aware of when I’m alone in my WhisperRoom vocal booth.”

The profession draws a wide variety of people, Clawson says. Some are entering the field as a second career; they’ve raised their kids or worked in the tech industry or want a creative outlets. Fitch isn’t the only lawyer in the group, either. San Mateo attorney Pam Kelly may have a background in information technology, but she’s hoping to make a transition into voice-over work in commercials and narration, she says.

And then, Clawson adds, “There’s the younger generation, who is listening to video games and watching Cartoon Network, who want to come in and learn how to do (this for) animation or video games.”

To them, Clawson has just one thing to say: Step up to the microphone. The future awaits – and those servants are at your command.

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