Symphony Trombonist Gives A Voice To Those Unable To Read Print

About seven years ago I was at a Seder where everyone took turns reading. After I read, the woman sitting to my right asked me if I was in radio or voiceover work. When I told her I wasn’t, she said, “Well you should be.”

I was at a recording studio that did voiceover work soon after. I asked for some recommendations about how to break in to the business and was given the name of a coach.

At one point, the coach suggested I volunteer at WTBBL, the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library. I auditioned with the goal of recording books on tape (they still used tape at that time).

I love sight-reading music, and found it transferred to an affinity for reading spoken words. I passed the audition but was assigned to WTBBL’s radio station because of my sight-reading. My job was to read the editorial section of five Eastern Washington newspapers, and cull enough material for a 30 minute show. I was less than thrilled with this task, but continued to do it for a couple of years. Finally, my incessant whining (a useful cultural trait) wore down the WTBBL employees, and I was allowed to record books instead, which I’ve done for the last 5 years.

I choose what to record from whichever books have been selected by the library staff, usually books with Northwest themes or written by Northwest authors. The recordings are strictly for the reading impaired and they’re not for commercial use, so no one I know hears them, nor do I meet the people who hear me read. This feels a bit strange, but I like the work. At the moment I’m recording that old favorite, “Lad: A Dog”, by Albert Payson Terhune. I loved the book as a child, and pounced on it when I found it at WTBBL. It has nothing to do with the Northwest, and Terhune lived in New Jersey, but someone wants to hear it and that’s good enough for WTBBL.

Other than winning a recent contest to be the Voice of the Symphony, which actually means I’m the voice of the daytime voicemail of the Symphony, I have never won another voiceover audition, nor have I made a single dollar at voiceover work. But I have found a meaningful way of doing service.

David Ritt
Seattle Symphony, trombone
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