Speaking volumes

Laney Breidenthal, Feature Editor

This feature can also be found in the Feb. issue of The Express. Listen to a sample of senior Austin Klein’s work here.


Senior Austin Klein has been acting from a young age, from participating in YouTube videos with his friends to being a part of nine theatre productions at BVNW. Klein said he has learned how to speak and how to be in character, which are attributes he said have helped him do voiceover work.

“I’ve been doing voiceover work over the last two years,” Klein said. “Really, I’ve always kind of thought about it as a possibility, but it was kind of a thing I was going to do in a month or so, but I finally went out and contacted a talent agency about two years ago.”

Klein said he has always had people who come up to him and tell him they think he has a great voice, however, he dismissed their comments until he thought about it and realized that doing voiceover work was actually something he could do. Since he has been with Exposure, a modeling and talent agency based in Kansas City, Klein said he has done mostly radio commercials, getting hired to do work for Lee jeans, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska and some smaller gigs.

“He’s super professional; he’s got a great voice,” Klein’s agent at Exposure, David Keith, said. “He sounds 20 years older than he really is, his voice is so deep. He’s really talented; he’s got a big future ahead of him.”

Klein first noticed his voice was different from others’ between his eighth grade and freshman year; he said he grew a foot taller and his voice dropped an octave.

“It’s just become sort of a running joke throughout my choir experience here that I was just that kid with the super deep voice,” Klein said.

Keith said Klein does not have a voice that sounds like a teenager’s, so Klein auditions for roles when the company is looking for 30- to 40-year-old voices.

“We don’t have any kids his age [at Exposure] with a voice like his; I was blown away by it,” Keith said. “He’s just so young and he sounds so old on the phone when he’s doing voiceover; that’s super unique…We have teenage actors who sound like teenagers, and that’s awesome because they can book the teenage stuff, but we don’t have anyone as young as Austin that has a voice like Austin’s.”

While Klein has attempted to do on-camera work, he said he has not found success due to the fact that there is a disconnect between what he looks like and what he sounds like.

“The problem with [doing on-camera work] is I look like I’m 17 and I sound like I’m 40, and when people see commercials, they’re like, ‘I don’t get what’s happening here; why does that kid sound like he chain smokes and lives in the Bronx?’” Klein said.

According to choral director Kevin Coker, upon first meeting Klein, people are struck by his physical stature, and then they hear him speak.

“When he speaks to you, this booming bass voice comes out of his mouth, and such a wonderful personality comes along with it,” Coker said. “That’s going to get him so far in life…I’ve never met a kid who has such a god-given talent that’s so humble about it. This is just who he is; it’s a part of him as a person.”

Klein said having such a mature voice makes it much more difficult for him to get hired; he is competing for jobs against seasoned professionals.

“[It] makes the whole industry that much more competitive for me because my voice is going up against people who have been doing this for 20 years, people who have been doing this all their lives, and for someone who has as little training experience as I have, that puts me at a disadvantage because I can’t compete against people my age for a role,” Klein said. “That’s just not what I sound like.”

Coker said Klein has the ability to be successful in doing voiceover work due to the fact that Klein is not altering his voice in any way.

“If he were manipulating the voice, if he were changing it, if he were trying to imitate a certain sound in his head, then it’s probably not healthy and you’re going to see through that in the long run,” Coker said. “But it’s just Austin speaking, and… you can’t teach someone to speak that low. There’s a small, small percentage of people who can speak like that, so why not go after it?”

Getting hired to do voiceover work is an extensive process and is one that involves an abundance of auditioning, according to Klein. The voiceover artists record themselves reading the material and send it to their talent agency, which then sends that audition to the company and then the company picks who they want for their commercial.

“For every 10 spots you audition for, you probably get one of them,” Klein said. “[It is competitive], especially in the Kansas City area. Kansas City…is huge for voiceover work; it probably has something to do with our non-regional dialect. People from Kansas City really don’t have accents for some reason, whereas someone from Boston or someone from [Los Angeles] or someone from Houston might.”

The most challenging aspect of doing voiceover work to Klein is making his voice sound interesting, excited and energetic because he said it does not transfer well over a recording.

“When you’re recording, you have to put an extreme amount of energy into just making your voice reach all the highs and the lows and the emotion that you’re trying to put across because very little of that translates outward,” Klein said. “Maintaining energy in your voice is a really difficult part of it.”

Klein said the majority of learning the trade of voiceover work is reading about how to create characters and placing a mental image of someone in the audience’s heads, which is the ultimate goal of voiceover work.

“There’s no college or school or formal training for people who want to do voiceover work,” Klein said. “It’s a lot of informal scouring of the internet for YouTube videos and finding books and really watching other people’s work. It’s a lot of self-guided learning.”

Making a living out of doing voiceover work is a very difficult thing to do; one must be extremely talented and be able to create lots of different characters and voices, Klein said. While Klein is not planning on pursuing voiceover work as a main career, he believes it to be an enjoyable hobby that he could pursue on the side of whatever career he chooses.

“I really just do it because it’s fun to be able to send in basically snippets of my acting and maybe have it show up on the radio or on TV,” Klein said.

Klein’s mother, Sue Klein, said doing voiceover work has been beneficial for Klein because it is a different way for him to perform; he has to express what he is attempting to say with just his voice and no visual input. She said differentiating himself in the voiceover world is similar to getting a job in acting.

“You have to be in the right place at the right time for the right job,” Sue said. “So if that happens for him or if there’s a need for his kind of voice, he’s going to get work. And it won’t be that he’s going to get every job that’s available, but there’ll be a job out there for him where he’s going to be just the perfect voice for the work.”

Klein believes his voice has been successful because people respond to it in ways they do not respond to other peoples’ voices.

“If [my voice] was just deep, I think it would be one thing,” Klein said. “I think there’s a certain resonance to it and a certain character to it. A lot of times, when I’m on stage, people will describe my voice as liquid chocolate or stuff like that, and it’s always a little funny to hear that.”

There are considerable financial gains from doing voiceover work: Klein said he has made approximately $3,500 over the past two years, and he said doing a national radio or TV ad can make the voiceover artist as much as $10,000. However, Klein said he does not do it for the money.

“Really, just being on the radio or being on TV is enough for me,” Klein said. “Being able to express the art of acting that I love in a different medium is really just fulfilling in it of itself. All that is associated with being on the radio, being on TV, getting the money, it’s just kind of supplementary to that.”

Sue said Klein is able to be successful in doing voiceover work due to the fact that he is responsible, dependable, he has been acting for several years and he is a good reader, allowing him to get his point across in very few takes.

“I think when I hear him, I’m just kind of amazed,” Sue said. “I just feel so grateful to just be able to witness that and watch it, and it’s just something Austin was born with.”