I graduated from Wagner College in 1995 with a B.A. in Theatre/Speech. Earlier this month, I had a chance to go to my class reunion. I did not expect to leave heavily inspired to share this speech with every voice talent, who forgot that they are artists. The opening speech by department chair, Dr.Felicia Ruff, will resonate in the hearts of all those out there who believe in being a ‘voice over artist’, first.
If you stepped behind a mic today, and maybe felt for one second, that you were not a voice over artist, I invite you to read below:
“...A night like tonight allows you all to reminisce but also connects our artist community across generations. The beautiful thing is that success takes our alums in all sorts of impressive directions: to law school, to graduate school studying theatre as well as history, global justice, education; we have alums who are serving their country as members of the Air Force, TeachAmerica and AmeriCorps; some alums serve as local missionaries and others have founded AIDS relief missions in Africa. And all our alums are amazing spouses, partners, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, and friends—and that matters and should be noted.
I hope you will allow me to digress for a moment. I just decided that I had to say what I am about to and that you all should hear it--because this is a room full of artists and people who have devoted their lives to the arts. I am not talking about ‘how you pay your bills’. I don’t care if you are living at home raising a family, playing the piano in your living room and taking your daughter to ballet lessons.
You are all artists.
And in our society, where corporate bankers can pillage our bank accounts and then be bailed out, where shows like “Jersey Shore” rob actors and writers of legitimate work, where drug addled heiresses become celebrities because they do not wear panties, the true artist—People like you who have devoted your life to singing, dancing, acting, composing, choreographing, playing music, painting, photography, writing poetry, lyrics, histories, biographies, reviews, scripts, or teaching music, art, voice, dance and theatre to another generation of artists--you are robbed of your value. And in a room full of artists, I thought it was important to remind you that you are the most important people in the world, engaged in the most important work in the world. Because it is art that connects us, art that inspires us, art that changes the world.
Who do you think inspires social change? Politicians and lawyers? No, it is the artist.
What teaches us more about our common humanity, than artistry.
Where would the civil rights movement be without Billie Holiday singing ‘Strange Fruit’, or Arlo Guthrie’s ‘This Land is Your Land’, or Paul Robeson performing ‘Othello’.
Who inspired the peace movement, more than musicians like the Weavers or the Beat Poets or even Broadway shows like ‘Hair.’? Artists. Today, it is that socially dangerous Lady Gaga, who stands up to bigotry as she becomes an ordained minister in order to perform civil services at her concerts and stands up for gay men and lesbians, who want to serve and die for their country. It is the artist who changes the way we see the world—we see things differently after Picasso.
I was thinking maybe we could give doctors and nurses their due and say they are more important than we are, but then I thought of all those studies that prove that composers and conductors live longer than those in other professions. And don’t they tell parents to play Mozart to newborns to make them smarter? Mozart wasn’t a pharmacist or geneticist—he was a musician. Ancient Greek theatres were built not only in the precincts of Gods but in what we would call spas—where the soul, not just the body, could be cleansed.
It is through art that we can transcend national boundaries, and overcome language and cultural barriers. Balanchine’s choreography is not just in Russia and America, but Korea, Norway, South Africa, Japan. I hope you will forgive my evangelizing on an evening that is meant to be celebratory. But it is so easy for us to feel marginalized and negated, when artistic success becomes a commodity through ratings, ticket sales, and the duration of a run, artists are reduced to salesmen. You/we are so much more.
And I just thought that while this is a celebration of our artist community, it is much more because we need to value ourselves and our work. And you need to remember the value that you bring to your home, your community, and this world when you bring art into it.
Now I will return to my formal responsibilities, introducing my colleagues, past and present.”
What do you think? Comment below!