A newsmaker you should know: Singer lends talent to voiceovers

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He may not be an opera singer, but Peters resident Bob Souer makes a good living with his voice.

Actually, the "makes a living" part is the reason he decided not to pursue belting out arias for a career, even though he'd spent 10 of his formative years studying the vocal nuances of "Carmen" and the like.

Instead, a series of vocational twists and turns led him to his calling as a voiceover artist, or, as he bills himself, professional storyteller.

"When you're doing voiceovers, it's not about you. It's about the story," explained Mr. Souer, 59, who lends his resonant baritone to everything from ads to audio books.

A look at his resume reveals clients varying from the Military Channel to the San Francisco Giants, with stints talking about the virtues of products such as Children's Zyrtec and the Sleep Number Bed.

Indeed, his telling of stories, even in 10-second spots, make persuasive cases to, say, shop at Sears.

On the other end of the duration scale, Mr. Souer has narrated two different versions of the three-quarters of a million words or so that comprise the Bible.

The stories he tells about his life are quite effective, too.

Revisiting his opera experience: At age 22, after a decade of study and training, he had an audition set up with a vocal coach with the New York Metropolitan Opera.

But he quickly learned "there are not enough opera houses in the United States to make a living as a part-time opera singer," he said.

There are, however, plenty throughout Europe, and he knew he'd have to spend a couple of decades there, building a reputation, before he could return home and get sufficient work.

"To me, it was a cost that was too high," said Mr. Souer, who made the tough decision to cancel his audition, left to wonder how he would have fared. "To me, it was preferable not to know."

He did know music, so he got a job at a record store in suburban Chicago. Then he got a job at a bigger record store, where one of his customers liked his sales style and hired him to sell real estate.

That led to him meeting key staff members at a radio station. And his work in radio led to his voiceover career.

One day, the station's general manager had taken everyone to lunch. But someone had to stay.

"I was having a pity party for myself, eating a baloney sandwich, or whatever I brought," Mr. Souer recalled. The phone rang. The man on the other end asked if anyone at the station would be interested in working for a new voiceover company.

Mr. Souer was interested and said he'd supply a demo tape. Only he didn't yet have a demo tape. He and a co-worker hastily assembled one after lunch, and it did the trick.

Along with his new career, Mr. Souer remained in radio. In 1994, a new job with the Christian Broadcasting Network brought him to Pittsburgh and a home in Peters.

He later left for several years, working for Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, before he and his family returned to Peters in 2011.

"We never stopped being Pirates or Pens or Steelers fans while we were gone," Mr. Souer said.

And he never has stopped taking care of the tool of his trade, drinking a daily cup of Traditional Medicinals' Organic Throat Coat tea. It seems to work fine, along with Mother Nature looking out for him.

"I'm grateful that I have a very resilient voice and always have," he said.

Harry Funk, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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