Giving Words Life
SOME VOICES CONJURE FOND MEMORIES LIKE THOSE OF FRIENDS AND FAMILY, WHILE OTHERS ADD VOLUME TO OUR LIVES WITH INFORMATION, DIRECTION AND ENTERTAINMENT. THESE VOICES CREATE THE MAGIC OF CARTOONS, RADIO, GPS, SIRI, E-LEARNING VIDEOS, AND EVEN ANSWERING MACHINES. THESE ARE THE VOICES OF ALUMNI KENDRA CASHMORE ’10 (THEATRE ARTS) AND DARON SELVIG ’89 (MASS COMMUNICATIONS).
Cashmore is an entertainer at heart. She competed in classical ballet and figure skating as an adolescent and performed sock puppet shows, voices and impersonations for her siblings. She enjoyed performing but never imagined her voice could be her career. So, she enrolled at the University of North Dakota to study another passion: biology.
“I always had an interest in the arts, but I am a science-based person. I thought I was going to be a doctor,” Cashmore said.
All of this changed when she registered for the class, Acting for Everyone.
“It was like a light switch turned on,” Cashmore said. “All of these things I was interested in but never gave space for in my life suddenly came together.”
She researched art-based schools and discovered MSUM’s strong theatre program. The sense of belonging she felt on campus cemented Cashmore’s decision to transfer to MSUM and enter a new world of creative expression.
Cashmore’s theatre professors and realworld experiences influenced her career as a voice artist.
Ricky Greenwell inspired her interest in technical theatre and working behind the scenes. Craig Ellingson challenged her to step outside her comfort zone. Jennifer Tuttle helped her to dig deeper into the roles she played, growing her confidence.
“One of the best things I learned at MSUM was learning how I learned and using that to teach myself new skills,” Cashmore said. “MSUM fosters an environment where you can personalize your education. If you have a specific interest you want to explore, you get opportunities and resources to put those ideas into action.”
After graduating, Cashmore moved to Minneapolis where she took a voice-over class at the Guthrie Theater. She met an audio engineer who helped her make a demo, which she used to gain representation with a voice-over agent when she moved to Los Angeles. As a small-town girl trying to make a name for herself, Cashmore buckled down to learn everything she could about the voice-over industry.
After numerous auditions, grit and networking paid off. A casting director requested Cashmore’s demo reel for the new brand voice for Sprout Network, the preschool channel under NBC, to voice the role of an adventurous babysitter who connects with kids.
“That was my first big lesson of opportunity meeting preparation,” Cashmore said. “I did a number of callbacks, and after three months I found out I got the job. This was my first ‘brand’ voice role for a big company, and it put me in a different bracket; I wasn’t just a struggling actor and waitress, but finally making a living off voice-over. If that opportunity came, and I had not been prepared, my life track would be completely different.”
Cashmore is finding her niche in commercial work and animation. She still enjoys doing voice work for Sprout, now called Universal Kids Network. Not only is the positive energy and message of their content fun to record, but she also loves how her nieces and nephews get to hear her voice in their morning cartoons since she doesn’t see them often.
“As a voice artist, you have to work to get your next job constantly,” Cashmore said. “But I'm making a living doing what I love, and I’m super fulfilled by it. That in itself is more than I could ever ask for.”
Selvig’s interest in voice work started in high school when he worked weekends at a local radio station in Ortonville, Minn. This led to his passion for broadcasting, which continued into his college experience at MSUM.
“I met Martin Grindeland almost immediately because I knew what I wanted to do,” Selvig said. “He was my mass communications advisor and he set a course for me very early on with the things I should be doing. I was, and still am, very grateful for that.”
As a freshman, Selvig auditioned for MSUM’s Campus News and served as the main anchor for four years. His interest in broadcasting led to voice-over work, and he credits MSUM with starting his voice acting career.
He connected with MSUM media services specialist Bob Schieffer, who produced videos for MSUM that were distributed internally. “He needed voice-over talent,” Selvig said. “He brought me into his studio to record them and that was my first real voice-over experience in addition to what I did at the radio station.”
After graduating, he worked in local broadcasting for 21 years, primarily as a weeknight news anchor at KVLY-TV.
“In my early career I had no thought of starting my own business. I was focused on the various broadcasters I wanted to work with or work for,” Selvig said.
During this time, he did some voice acting on the side but had limited opportunity because it is considered unethical for broadcast journalists to do commercial work. Despite these limitations, he voiced some documentary and in-house material that wasn’t distributed publicly.
“I became more interested in doing voice acting for a living and began to realize I have the tools, just like virtually anybody does, to start my own business and support myself,” Selvig said.
Because of decades of part-time voiceover work, he slowly built a client list that allowed him to go full-time. Although this was a big career transition, Selvig believes he made the right choice.
“I spent so many years in the spotlight, but now that I run my own business, I can set my own goals and I feel like I’m learning something new every day,” Selvig said. “I don’t get immediate feedback from the general public as often anymore, but I get that from my clients.”
As Selvig delved deeper into voice-over work, he found his niche in e-learning and online course voice-overs. He says he inherited a teaching vibe from his parents, who were both teachers and MSUM alumni.
“I love knowing I am helping to educate people or teaching them things in a new way they hadn’t considered before,” Selvig said. “It was scary for me to take this leap into voice-overs because I was an employee for most of my life. There are great opportunities either way, but I think it’s nice for people to know it’s an available option.”
Both Selvig and Cashmore use their voices in ways they never imagined. From sultry and sassy to smooth and sincere, these voice artists are shining examples that following your inner voice can lead to entrepreneurial enterprises that are richly rewarding.
This story was first published in Moorhead Magazine, Spring 2019.
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