Sunday, April 21, 2024

Local Teacher Turns to Voice Acting, Creates New Career Out of Her Love for Performing

(Courtesy of Vanessa Jones)

HISTORIC TRIANGLE — Vanessa Jones is a local performer that has always had a passion for words.

She got involved in community theatre productions around the age of seven and furthered her performance skills when she received a double major in English and theater at Bucknell University. She topped her education off with a master’s degree in English from the University of Iowa.

Jones decided to take her experience and use what she learned to teach performance skills to new generations of young talent. This led her to teach local middle students as well as high school students who were attending the school of arts at Bruton High School.

“I taught there for four years and I taught things like, ‘How to Be a YouTuber,’ and ‘How to do voiceovers for your own animated commercials,’ and just how to be a fabulous storyteller like the ones on The Moth on public radio,” Jones said in an interview with WYDaily.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way local teachers instructed their classes. For approximately 6 months, the pandemic forced educators like Jones to conduct classes online over video conference calls using Zoom.

During those new online classes, Jones received countless creative projects from her students, including original commercials, voiceover work, and YouTube videos.

“They were making incredible stuff. I got so much out of watching their YouTube videos,” said Jones. “When we got back to in-person classes, one of my students said, ‘You know Ms. Jones, I have to tell you, I already had a YouTube channel when we started this unit but now I have so many more subscribers because I started doing the things you told me to do.'”

(Courtesy of Vanessa Jones)

The students were given parameters and told to find a niche they could create videos about, and then filmed those videos from home for assignments.

“I remember thinking at some point, ‘Wow, these students, they’re really really good!’ I mean, they could do this for a career,” said Jones. “That’s when I turned the lens on myself and I said, ‘Wait a minute, I could do this as a career!'”

Inspired by her students’ talent and the uncertainties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Jones decided to leave her job as a teacher so she could pursue a career in voice acting.

Jones contacted a past colleague and friend, Anthony Pica, who also left teaching a few years before Jones to pursue the voice-over industry full-time. Pica helped Jones learn more about the voice acting field through his Voice Over Academy.

“When COVID hit, I just thought that I needed to contact him and see what he can offer me in terms of support for getting started. So that’s what I did,” said Jones. “By the end of that first year of COVID, I said I’m not going to be able to go back to teaching. There’s just too much that’s unknown and I think I can take all these skills that I have and parlay them into voice acting.”

The move into a new career field has provided Jones with the opportunity to work on a variety of projects. She has done character work for cartoons and video games, she’s voiced corporate narration for a variety of public events, she’s done work with real estate companies and e-learning companies, and she’s been involved in all kinds of commercials with major businesses including Walmart. She’s even taken on unique projects, like working with the 2020 World Expo in Dubai. 

Below is a video from Jones’ voice-over work for the Luxembourg Pavilion at the 2020 World Expo in Dubai: 

Jones does all her voice acting from home in a studio she built herself. A big part of that was setting up acoustic panels to enhance the quality of sound in the space. The process of setting up the home studio and learning more about the industry took Jones a couple of months.

After that, she signed up for freelance websites such as Fiverr and Upwork. She has since moved on to more audition-based websites that offer even more opportunities for professional work.

“For a lot of people, a walk-in closet makes a great recording studio,” said Jones. “So people can get started fairly easily, as long as they have a decent laptop and a decent microphone.”

The bulk of her work is international, and Jones says that she’s now interested in working on more commercials and children’s content.

“It’s about what I can evoke with my voice. What can I get the listeners to experience? That, to me, brings up all of my love of words, and my love of being able to say the same phrase one hundred times and still being able to create an entirely different story behind it based on how I say it,” said Jones. “That’s the kind of thing I absolutely love doing. I had no idea that I could do that for a living when I graduated from college as a theater major. Technology has improved so much. I have never known that I could have a home studio and be able to produce broadcast quality work for people all over the world.”

The video below is an animated cartoon for which Jones performed voice-over work:

“It’s [Voice Acting’s] everything I’ve ever done in my life kind of brought together into this career that I’m finally able to say, ‘I’ve made this for myself. I’ve taken all of these skills and experiences, and parlayed them into a thing.’ You know we’re all looking for a thing. I think getting to that point is very exciting,” Jones said.

For information on Jones’ projects please visit her website.

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