To Top

Hidden Gems: Meet Joan Baker and Rudy Gaskins of Society of Voice Arts and Sciences.

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joan Baker and Rudy Gaskins

Joan Baker

Hi Joan, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today.
Serendipity was with us. We met on a job at ABC News in New York City. Working in our respective roles, Rudy as the writer and producer for the network, and Joan as the voice talent. From the moment we met, there was an undeniable connection. Little did we know this encounter would mark the start of an extraordinary collaboration and journey together. 

Shortly after we became a couple, we joined forces to train people (as I Joan was already doing) seeking to become voice actors and initiated a corporate platform for teaching producers how to get the most out of directed voiceover sessions. Voice actors would come to our New York studio, but for the network producers, we would go to their boardrooms and work with them by putting them on the other side of the microphone. We were both quite busy with our day jobs, but we enjoyed seeing newcomers develop into full-fledged voice actors, and we were especially excited to hear feedback from TV producers who felt more confident working with talent. 

Voice actors always come into the business with a need for training. Producers, on the other hand, rarely get more than on-the-job training when it comes to working with voice actors. They wing it and depend on the voice actors to know what to do. Training producers to direct voice actors was new territory. The lack of training in this area shed light on why voice actors were often an afterthought in the production chain. 

We both felt a calling to use our skills and expertise not only to create impactful content but also to make a difference in the world. Our partnership developed organically, fueled by a growing love for each other and a mutual belief that we could create something that would truly uplift the often overlooked and underserved community of voice actors. 

Our shared vision led us to create “Well Said,” a series of voice-acting workshops we hosted in studios and loft spaces across NYC in 1995. We taught the craft and business of voiceover acting from both the director’s and actor’s perspectives. This dual perspective (director and actor) proved to be the key that unlocked a holistic training experience. To round out the learning experience, we brought in other industry professionals, including producers, casting directors, talent agents, managers, and, of course, buyers. We felt we were pioneering a new space where aspiring voice actors could learn the ropes and walk away with an understanding of pursuing work with their newfound training. 

Through our collaboration, we founded Push Creative Advertising, expanding into production for major brands like Lexus, American Express, Delta Airlines, BET, and many more. We also created over 100 ticketed voiceover events, donating proceeds to charities like the Alzheimer’s Association and Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS. Our journey led us to establish the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences, focusing on the voice acting community and humanitarian values. As founders, we’ve engaged with individuals at all levels and celebrated voices through our Voice Arts Awards program. Grateful for every opportunity, we anticipate continuing our journey of service together. 

Rudy, can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back, would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It hasn’t been smooth sailing. It’s been more like mountain climbing, where you don’t always know if a potential foothold is going to be safe and where unexpected weather or geological changes literally turn everything upside down. Many of these challenges come in the form of people who, for personal and spiteful reasons, don’t want to see you succeed. At the outset, there was intense negativity from various quarters, including bigots who couldn’t get past the fact that we, the Founders, were Black. This backlash might have been predictable, but it was no less shocking and agonizing. Yet, despite the negativity, there were far more supporters whose love and passion for our creation drowned out the naysayers. 

Even in our 10th Anniversary year, we faced a new and unexpected existential threat. Many months after securing a contract for the 10th Voice Arts Gala at the renowned Beverly Hilton International Ballroom, a strike was called by one of the hotel’s unions. The strike posed a significant challenge to our meticulously planned event, which was set to honor distinguished celebrity voice actors like Viola Davis. Despite the strike and the additional challenge posed by the SAG AFTRA union, we were determined to uphold our contract and ensure the success of the gala. We spent one month communicating our concerns to the hotel management and urging them to find a solution. 

In the face of daunting circumstances, we refused to succumb to fear or despair. We rallied our resources, continued our efforts to bring about a solution, and worked tirelessly to navigate the challenges posed by potential disturbances during the event. Our determination, along with the support of our sponsors and the dedication of our team, ultimately prevailed. The strikers and management settled their dispute just 48 hours before the event, allowing us to overcome this formidable obstacle and deliver a memorable and successful global event. 

We’ve been impressed with Society Of Voice Arts And Sciences, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
We specialize in curating transformative educational experiences, job creation, and fostering inclusive communities within the voiceover industry. In nearly two decades, That’s Voiceover! Career Expo is the longest-running voiceover conference in history with a focus on training, education, professional networking, and career advocacy. The Voice Arts Awards focuses on elevating the stature of the art and the industry through acknowledgment, philanthropy, and celebrating our accomplishments. 

We derive our greatest source of pride from the strength of our bond and the impact we’ve made as a team in our personal and professional lives. Our journey is marked not only by our professional achievements before and after we met but also by the lives we’ve touched and transformed along the way. We empower the voice-acting community to embrace diversity and humanitarianism as the North. 

Star that guides one’s career and all else in life. 

Our work is distinguished by the quality of its content and our genuine passion for making a difference. We want to see the voice acting community thrive financially through work that is personally fulfilling and where one can maintain a comfortable quality of life. For us, it has never been solely for personal gain. We are driven by a deeper purpose: to inspire, uplift, and empower others to reach their dreams. We trust that this is a means to our well-being. 

We’d love to hear what you think about risk-taking.
We categorize risk into low, moderate, high, and blind, helping individuals determine their position on the spectrum. Understanding one’s risk tolerance upfront facilitates decision-making with less conflict. In stock market investing, the rule of thumb is to avoid risking more than one can afford to lose, a subjective concept influenced by personal risk tolerance. For us, risk encompasses the potential loss of something irreplaceable, while tolerance allows for recovery and future opportunities. 

Founding global institutions entails high risk, involving finances, reputation, and personal well-being. We tread carefully but often embrace calculated risks to pursue greater success. Despite the challenges, witnessing the joy of emerging voiceover talents and seasoned pros on our stage fills us with fulfillment. While success may seem within reach, risk-taking means believing in the story being written and acknowledging uncertainties beyond one’s control. 

As founders, we’ve established various ventures in the voice acting community, setting standards and inspiring innovation. The journey has been fraught with enormous risks, including personal attacks and mental strain. Despite that, we remain committed to our vision, knowing that disruption is part of pioneering change. 

Establishing the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences required significant investments of time, money, reputation, and well-being. We even sold our home to support our mission. While our path may not be for everyone, risk is a deeply personal decision. Our mission has always been to uplift the voice-acting community, break barriers, and elevate the industry. 

Despite the challenges, the heartfelt feedback from all over the world we receive fuels our determination to continue spreading our wings and inspiring others to soar alongside us! 

Contact Info:

Image Credits

Society Of Voice Arts And Sciences

Suggest a Story: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in local stories