Voice over talent took center stage Sunday night as the first annual Voice Arts Awards were held in New York.
The highlight of the evening was James Earl Jones receiving the first-ever Voice Arts™ Icon Award for a career that has included such influential voice roles as Darth Vader in Star Wars, Mufasa in The Lion King, and the “This is CNN” tagline that helped establish the brand of the then-fledgling news network in the 1980s and 1990s.
The new award ceremony is sponsored by the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences, and honors leading professionals in all areas of entertainment that make use of voice talent, including movies, television, commercials, video games, and audiobooks.
Spreading The Industry’s Voice
The gala evening, held as part of THAT’S VOICEOVER! at the Museum of the Moving Image, was expressly designed to raise the profile of vocal talent and the industry in general, and to connect voice over professionals with creative directors, buyers and agents to help drive their respective careers to the next level and advance the state of the voice art.
Jones, who’s currently starring in You Can’t Take It With You, attended the gala event with his wife, Cecilia Hart. His cast from the Broadway revival attended the awards ceremony, as well. In an earlier interview with the Associated Press, Jones said the award has profound meaning to him.
“There is magic in the human voice,” he said. “And I’m honoured.”
And the Winners Are…
That magic extended to the awards winners themselves, with the evening’s winners representing a broad cross section of the industry, including:
Michael Izquierdo won Outstanding National Television Promotion Campaign for his work on the 2014 Tour De France for NBC Sports Group. He’s also had roles in The Wolf of Wall Street, Taking Woodstock, and Meet Dave.
Lisa Loeb, the multitalented musician, actor and voice professional, won Outstanding National TV Image Promo for the NBC Sports Group’s 2014 Kentucky Derby. Her voice resume is extensive, with credits for Spider-Man: The New Animated Series, the Grandia Xtreme video game, and The Rugrats Movie.
David Bateson took the award for Outstanding National Television Episodic Promo, Best Male Voice for SBS Discovery Media’s Mighty Ships.
Sharon Martin won Outstanding National TV Program Narration for the Oxygen Network’s and Jupiter Entertainment’s Snapped.
Joe Cipriano had a banner evening in New York. He took home the award for Outstanding Audio Book Narration – Biography for his vocal work on Living On Air, then won Outstanding Audio Book Narration – Author Performance for the same production. Cipriano is no stranger to awards victories, as in 2010 he was the 2nd recipient of the annual Don LaFontaine Legacy Award for his contributions to the industry. His own Joe Cipriano Promos, Inc. produced Living On Air.
Lori Alan, whose three-decade career as an actor and vocal professional includes roles in SpongeBob: Squarepants, The Fantastic Four, Monster’s University, Toy Story 3, Despicable Me 2, WALL.E, Metal Gear Solid and Futurama, was recognized for Outstanding Body of Work. She picked up another award, along with Brandon Paul Eells, for Outstanding National TV Commercial for the Valspar “Chameleons” spot.
Kirby Heyborne took home the Outstanding Audio Book Narration – Teens award for his work on Listening Library’s Scowler by Daniel Kraus.
Penguin Random House Audio projects were well represented Sunday night. John O’Hara, won Outstanding Audio Book Narration – Classics for The New York Stories. Jayne Entwistle topped the Outstanding Audio Book Narration – Mystery category for The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, by Alan Bradley. Edoardo Ballerini’s vocal work on Kill Fee (by by Owen Laukkanen) won him the Outstanding Audio Book Narration – Crime & Thriller award, and Scott Brick won Audio Book Narration – Non-Fiction, Best Male Voice for Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss.
Penguin’s win streak continued with Daniel Davis, Jonathan Davis, Ian Doescher, January LaVoy and Marc Thompson bringing home the Outstanding Audio Book Narration – Science Fiction, Best Ensemble award for their work on William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher.
B.J. Novak, Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer, and Mindy Kaling – all alums of The Office – won alongside Katy Perry, Lena Dunham, and Jason Schwartzman in the Best Audio Book Narration – Short Story Anthology category for voicing Novak’s One More Thing. Edward Herrmann (Gilmore Girls, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Aviator) won Audio Book Narration–History, Best Male Voice for The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown.
Julia Whelan took home the statue for Outstanding Audio Book Narration – Biography for her work on Podium Publishing’s Until The End Of The World, by Sarah Lyons Fleming.
Studio Center talent was well represented in the winner’s circle. Dave Hoffman won National Radio Commercial, Best Male Voice for Krystal, Robert Garson won Outstanding Local Radio Commercial for Motor Werks, and Kevin Johnson won Outstanding Local TV Commercial for the Cleveland Indians.
Debbe Hirata topped the Outstanding Movie Narration (Short or Long-Form) category for The Return of the River. In a heartfelt acceptance speech, Hirata said she grew up playing in the river – something no one knew before she was cast.
Mandy Williams won Audio Book Narration – Children (Ages 6 to 12), Best Female Voice for How to Catch a Bogle by Catherine Jinks for Listening Library. She beat out Titanic star Kate Winslet, who had been nominated for her work on Roald Dahl’s Matilda.
Cyndi Shope won Audio Book Narration – Fiction and Fantasy, Best Female Voice for On The Rocks by Erin Duffy, while the Best Male Voice award went to Ray Chase for Podium Publishing’s A Warm Place To Call Home, by Michael Siemsen.
Sophie Eastlake took home the award for Audio Book Narration – Romance for her narration of Audible, Inc.’s Dragos Takes a Holiday: A Novella of the Elder Races, by Thea Harrison.
Chuck Duran and Stacey J. Aswad won the Outstanding Voiceover Podcast award for their work on VO Buzz Weekly.
Luis Garcia‘s work on Demo won him the Outstanding Spanish Language Voiceover award.
Mitch Phillips won for Outstanding Promo Demo Reel.
Jay Britton was a double-winner, first for Outstanding Animation Demo Reel for Video Game Reel 2014, then his Commercial Reel 2014 won for Commercial Demo Reel, Best Male Voice.
Debbie Munro won Commercial Demo Reel, Best Female Voice for her VOChefDeb Commercial Reel.
Hayley Faith Negrin topped the Outstanding Television Animation category for Peg+Cat.
Michael Gough won Outstanding Video Game Character for voicing Deckard Cain in Diablo III.
The nominee list for the VAAs read like a who’s who of voice talent, including Laurie Naughton, Chris Fries, Dave Pettit, Lex Lang, and the eventual dual-award-winner Joe Cipriano. Pat Fraley struck a poignant note when he shared a video retrospective of highlights from the career of Robin Williams, who died in August.
The nominees also included entertainment industry royalty whose fans may not normally associate them with voice work, including Bobby Cannavale, Jon Hamm, Richard Kind, Jan Maxwell, and Gretchen Mol.
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