Interview by Lin Parkin
If there’s one thing that most working mothers share in common, it’s the desire to balance work life and home life. Achieving that elusive goal of fulfilling your calling as a parent as well following your passions and career choices can feel like the Holy Grail.
One profession that offers ample opportunity to achieve that work/life balance is doing voice-over work. Being a voice-over performer offers challenges and benefits unique to the profession. In many cases, the voice-over artists operate out of their home-based studios. This gives voice actors the freedom to audition and work from home, but they have to have room for an acoustically isolated recording space. They also find that, in addition to being the creative talent, they must act as director, producer, technician, marketer, manager, and accountant all at the same time.
Voice-over artists who are able to manage all these aspects of their career are living the dream. One voice talent who has achieved this work-life balance as voice over artist, musician, and business owner is Rosi Amador. Amador, originally from Puerto Rico, has forged a performing career as both a touring musician and a Spanish/English bilingual, accent free voice-over performer.
A voice over news agency reached out to Amador to discover how she got where she is today in her career and how she manages her own work-life balance – often by including her husband and twin daughters in her career.
Parkin: When did you first discover your remarkable vocal talents?
Amador: As a child I always loved to sing, perform and tell stories dramatically. So said my Puerto Rican abuelita, my maternal granny, who claimed that she would sing the notes of the musical scale to me and I would mimic her perfectly when I was an infant in her arms! I’m not sure if this was true since she was known for spinning a tale or two. I recall singing and humming constantly even as I did my chores as a young child. My parents were actors in film, stage and radio, and imparted their love of language to me, Spanish and English in particular, and their love of music, always encouraging me to perform and use my bilingual talents. Throughout my schooling I sang in choruses, often singing solos, and performed lead roles in musical theater at my alma mater, Bryn Mawr College. I took voice lessons and then became a professional Latin American singer with the first Latin band I co-founded with my husband and business partner, Brian Amador, in the 1980’s. I became a bilingual voice actor in the 90’s. It was a passion from my earliest days and something that no one could stop me from expressing.
Parkin: How did you become self-employed as a voice professional?
Amador: Brian and I have been entrepreneurs since shortly after we met in 1984 but, before then, we were both working for others – Brian as a flamenco guitarist for a Spanish Dance Company shortly after he graduated from New England Conservatory and me as the managing director of a Boston-based touring theater company in charge of bookings and management. By 1986 our first Latin band had gotten busy enough that we left our full-time jobs and dedicated ourselves exclusively to our music, with me as its manager and booking agent.
Then we had our daughters and didn’t want to be on the road constantly as the girls were growing up. When they were infants and in elementary school it was really fun to take them on the road and relatively easy, making them ideal travel partners who were social and flexible by age 9 and used to hanging out with a variety of adults. But by the time they reached middle school, we didn’t enjoy leaving them with friends to go on our tours and missed them terribly. In the midst of all this, I founded a Latin music booking agency, representing music acts from all over Latin America and working out of my home office as I always had, while downsizing our bands touring to be with our girls more.
Finally, by the early 90’s, we began investing in our home studio and intentionally looking toward moving into a full-time voice-over career by the time the girls were in high school. Fortunately, that is exactly what evolved. We have been doing voice-overs full-time now since 2010, though we were serious part-timers for years before that.
Parkin: What was your first voice-over job?
Amador: In the early 1990’s, a fan of Sol y Canto invited me to be the voice for her Spanish curriculum for young learners. I mostly narrated but also sang. To this day there are people who approach me and say, “are you the Rosi that I learned Spanish with on tapes?” Shortly after that a music educator invited Brian and me to participate in a large voice-over project for Scholastic, reading stories for young people, and Brian was commissioned to write songs on educational themes. At the time we were still touring full-time with our band, Sol y Canto. Then in 1996, just after giving birth to our premature twins and spending over three weeks in the hospital’s NICU, the hospital’s marketing staff figured out that we were Latino musicians of some notoriety and asked if I’d do a pro-bono campaign on their behalf about our excellent experiences at the hospital, including both print media and radio PSA’s in Spanish and English to help them reach out to the Latino community. I jumped at the chance! That recording session took place at a top recording studio in Boston and I recall how amazed I was that I was being directed by someone in New York as well as the marketing staff in Boston in the control room. Right then I got the bug and decided I wanted to do more voice-overs some day, when we were not touring as much. I loved it!
Parkin: How did your children get involved? How old were they?
Amador: Our girls began singing with us at 4 years of age. They joined us on our first bilingual CD for children when they were 7, in 2003, performing with us for years, and they have remained involved with music, unsurprisingly. One of them is now developing herself as a singer-songwriter, singing mostly in English. The first time they were involved in a voice-over project was thanks to the request of an editor at Barefoot Books, a prominent British children’s book publisher that has offices in our hometown of Boston as well as in England. Their new creative editor was assigned the role of turning a gorgeous new book into an audiobook and selected Brian and me to narrate and provide the character voices. She had the brilliant idea of asking our whole family to narrate the charming story, launching our twins, Alisa and Sonia, into voice-over careers at age 14!
Parkin: What do your girls love most about performing voice-overs?
Amador: Alisa and Sonia tell me that what they love the variety of roles they get cast in and how much they value being able to use their bilingual skills. When they were much younger, like many other children of immigrants, they objected to our insistence on speaking only Spanish at home. Now they are so grateful to be so connected to their Latino heritage. They enjoy the distinct advantage of being able to sing or do voice-overs in Spanish, English or Hispanic-accented English, when need be. They are natural actors and voice-overs give them an opportunity to use that ability and get lots of praise from producers and directors. You can’t beat that at 17!
Parkin: Your entire family speaks with neutral accents, in both English and Spanish! How were you able to achieve this, not only for yourself, but also for the whole family?
Amador: I give thanks to my parents, for raising me bilingually. My father was from Buenos Aires, Argentina and his command of English was weak, though he always tried hard. In fact, he is the one that I channel when I voice in English with a Hispanic accent! I always spoke both languages interchangeably, though Spanish was my first language in our home. My mom was from New York, of Puerto Rican descent, and always wanted me to speak flawless English, so she insisted that my sister and I go to an American school starting in 2nd grade, where classes were taught in North American English, preparing me to attend college in the United States. I was also taught that it was imperative to speak in a very neutral Latin American Spanish so as to sound “proper.” However, to this day when I am with my Puerto Rican friends I find myself speaking with a Puerto Rican-inflected accent, and when I’m with relatives or friends from Argentina I sound more like a “porteña” from the port of Buenos Aires.
Brian is from New Mexico, and didn’t formally study Spanish until the age of 10 since his mom, like many people of Mexican heritage in this country, had suffered the injustice of being punished for speaking in Spanish in school as a young child. As a consequence, she didn’t speak Spanish with her sons, but Brian heard it all the time when he visited his grandmother and when his mom and her 11 siblings got together, so he picked it up on his own and later cemented it in place intentionally in school and college, achieving flawless pronunciation in both languages.
With our daughters, we made a choice to raise them bilingually and preserve our Spanish language by making it a rule to speak only Spanish at home. In fact, we even had a reward system of stars up on the fridge. After receiving a certain number of stars, the girls would receive a prize – a rewarding experience with the family or, at times, even a small gift (yes, a bribe!). Once we told them that if they spoke Spanish for a year they’d get a trampoline! It took two years, but we got them that trampoline and it was one of the best and most joyful purchases we ever made, plus it was extra meaningful because it was inspired by their efforts and achievement to remain bilingual.
Parkin: What is it like living in a home consisting of voice actors and performers?
Amador: It’s a lot of fun! We understand each other well, and even though like any other parents Brian and I have challenging moments with our teenage daughters, we are also so grateful that they share our delight in all things artistic. Sonia is a gifted writer and unique visual artist, and I can easily imagine her filming, writing for or creating educational animations that she might one day voice, too. Alisa is an extroverted singer-songwriter and public speaker as a student leader, who also loves to dance. She devours French and Latin American literature and culture. Sometimes we get into a family banter imitating voices we hear on TV, especially on PBS, since we’re fans of Masterpiece Theater, or a Sci-Fi TV series, or NPR Radio commentators’ voices (Meghna Chakrabarti is my favorite!), adopting them as character voices that Brian and I can throw in when producers hire us to do multiple voices for a project. At times, the girls hear us immediately mimicking a voice we’ve just heard from a TV series and they glare at us with the “don’t you dare imitate that voice right now and ruin this TV show for us,” kind of look. Guilty as charged!
Parkin: How awesome is it for your entire family to be able to enjoy the freedom of self-employment? What is that like for you and your family?
Amador: We LOVE it! Once I became an entrepreneur and enjoyed the flexibility of being available for my kids when they needed us, or of scheduling family time when they were on school vacations, I could never go back! Of course it’s a double-edged sword because, as all entrepreneurs know, it’s hard to find that balance between dedicating yourself to the work you are passionate about as a creative (the work never ends), and finding time for your family to rest and play, especially as the kids grow up and their interests change. However, I’m happy to say that when our girls were younger we managed it well and often turned our musical tours into family vacations, making new friends and traveling to exotic places, particularly when we performed on educational cruise ships with the girls and they became the passengers’ darlings, or when we went back to my home in Puerto Rico, or Brian’s in Albuquerque, or on tours to Florida or California during the frigid Boston winters. As voice actors we’re still able to travel and choose whether to make use of our remote recording set-up for short or emergency jobs. We also enjoy setting clear limits and since we work a lot when the girls are in school, we typically are pretty clear about protecting our family vacations and not allowing work to creep in to those special family times. I have encouraged my daughters to also consider becoming entrepreneurs. I feel that my education at Bryn Mawr College inspired me to be bolder and more of a risk taker, challenging my more conservative Latin upbringing, and that the roots of my entrepreneurial spirit were born there, amongst my supportive women friends, who encourage me greatly to this day.
Parkin: Do you think being self-employed provides your kids with fundamental money management skills they otherwise wouldn’t have? How?
Amador: Oh yes! They are far better money managers than Brian or I were at 17 – that’s for sure. They really value doing voice-overs not only because they have fun, but also obviously because the income-making potential is infinitely better compared to other kinds of jobs a teenager can do. I think that our daughters have also benefited from seeing our successes, struggles and even failures as entrepreneurs. They have witnessed our ebbs and flows, many CD’s, new websites, auditions, rejections, and big and small wins. They know it’s not easy and you have to keep studying, growing and investing in your career in order to stay ahead of the game.
They see us participating in voice-over groups to meet and learn from one another. Alisa and Sonia see that it takes a lot of focus, hard work and organization to be a successful entrepreneur and that it’s not for the faint of heart. But they also see the advantages and I know they truly appreciate them, and all of the ways in which we’ve been able to prioritize raising them during their youth and adolescence. We hope that’s what they’ll remember the most, though we know there are times when we’ve had to work over-time, which they also noticed. They’ve become experts at walking quietly in the house when we do work overtime to meet a client’s needs, for example.
Parkin: What’s your favorite thing about being a voice-over artist?
Amador: I am honored each and every time a producer or client chooses my voice or my family’s voices. I feel enormous gratitude that I get to do this for a living – I often feel like I’m getting paid to play! I get to act, use my unique bi-cultural lens to motivate, educate or inspire others. And on top of all this, sometimes I get to do this with my husband and life partner, or with my whole family. What could possibly be better?! This helps me give my clients top-level service, from voice-overs to helping them with excellent culturally-sensitive translations. They are giving me a gift each time they select my voice. I always aim to give my best to each and every one and am grateful to have hundreds of repeat clients. They bring me joy and satisfaction daily. I couldn’t be more grateful.
December 10, 2013