Monday, October 25, 2010

We Are All Artists by Dr.Felicia Ruff

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!

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Allison said...

Wow - thanks for posting. Sometimes in this crazy society governed by big business, artificial "talent", and over-inflated celebraty, we artists need to be reminded we matter, we possess true talent, and we are true to our calling. I have been a concert pianist and singer for many, many years - not all successfully - and a budding voice talent. I am inspired to continue my pursuit in the voice talent industry, knowing that I matter.

Leo said...

Inspiring! Thanks for sharing this.

Holly said...

It's easy to think that we've missed the boat on our opportunity to be successful. I think of Mr. Holland's Opus a lot these days. I appreciate reading this speech so much! It reminds us all that even the, what we may consider to be, smallest shred of Art, is still Art. And Art is meant to be shared and adored. And those that teach it and do it (us) should be appreciated. Thank you for reminding me of this!

Ax Norman said...

Here, Here! And, Hear, Hear! Let us not forget to express our artistry even as we seek to please our clients. This is our palette.

BBC1 said...

Hello Dr. Ruff, Voice 123 Members, I couldn't agree more! My late mother - who was stricken with polio* (*except for her lungs) at the age of four and a half - in the 1924 polio epidemic in (Durban, Natal) South Africa. And was "orphaned" at the age of nine. Regaining the use of her limbs* (*except for her legs, i.e., she was paralyzed from the waist-down, for the remainder of her extraordinary life). Born with the "gift of an exceptional speaking (and pure soprano singing) voice." She, outstandingly and amazingly enough, went on to study music and speech and drama at The Incorporated London Academy of Music. Was awarded a bronze medal in Elocution in 1940 - but due to the onset of the 2nd World War - was required to return to South Africa. Whereafter, she obtained her L.T.C.L., in Speech and Drama and Speech Therapy, and became an S.A.B.C. Broadcaster. Married my father, an officer in the R.A.F., had five children* (*which occupied most of her time) and gave "lessons" when possible.* (*Often for nothing, and mostly for very little, because - as a true artist - she was more "spiritually" than materialistically-minded).
PS: I knew at the age of nine that I was "born" to sing and dance, and "inherited" my mother's gift of a pure English speaking-voice. However, try as I may, I was never employed as an "announcer," or talk-show host (here in S.A., much to my dismay). Presently cannot afford "premium membership" - where any virtual employment Voice-Related sites, are concerned. And cannot really apply for any assignments, because my voice has deepened* to such an extent over the years, I now sound like a "man?" (Oh dear.) *PPS: a deep voice is, apparently, a sign of "higher spirituality?" (Oh well, even though I'm continually called, "Sir," over the phone? No matter, I'll settle for that).
"A Bird of the Air will Carry the Voice?" My suggestion as an alternative to the title of: "Remote Employee."
God bless. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and "sound" in the ear of the listener."


E Playford Sleigh.
Port Alfred Eastern Cape South Africa.

Anonymous said...

Some good points although I have to disagree about Lady Gaga. Her as an “ordained minister” is itself a ball of wax too large to be adequately addressed within a comment post, but I’m very disappointed that you would put her on a pedestal as a role model for artists or for anyone for that matter. I’m also very disappointed with the name-calling. Sadly, we now we live in a society where anyone who disagrees with another’s stance on an issue is routinely called derogatory names like “bigot”. The great irony of that comes when you realize that if you disagree with my stance here, you’re a “bigot” too by your own use of the word.

The Voice123 Team said...

It is always disappointing when one fears stating what they believe to the point that they leave anonymous comments.

I guess the difference is that one person stated her belief with her name behind it, and such resolve intimidates others.