“Today, anyone with a microphone can get into this type of work. And with the barrier to entry being so low, these people have a burden on themselves to study their craft, hone their skills, and compete in this new marketplace,” says Debra Deyan, owner of Deyan Audio.
A couple of months ago the Deyan Institute of Voice Artistry and Technology officially opened its doors in Northridge, Calif. offering an array of courses around audio book production, sound engineering and, of course, voice acting and performance.
For the past 20 years, the Deyans have produced audiobooks with over 30 publishing houses and have racked up four Grammy awards and 11 nominations. In the summer of 2013, Bob and Debra Deyan became the first individuals to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Audio Publishers Association (all prior recipients were publishing houses).
However, it was a year of mixed blessings: Bob Deyan was also diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease ALS. He is currently in its final stages, and it was for this reason that Debra Deyan ramped up her efforts to form the school. The expedited schedule accounts for the Institute’s soft opening, in which current registrants number in the twenties.
“I wanted to open the Institute in honor of my husband, while he was alive to see it,” she says. “Once Bob told me in the beginning of March that he wanted this school for his legacy, I knew I had only a couple of months to get it going so he could be here to see it. My team and I worked 18-hour days to make it happen.”
That team includes, among others, actors P.J. Ochlan, Coleen Marlo, Fran Tunno, and Bronson Pinchot.
“We wanted to make a difference because there are so many opportunities for narrators with zero experience to get into the business now,” says Ochlan. A dialect coach who’s worked as an actor and director since 1986, Ochlan taught one of the Deyan Institute’s first classes, an audiobook introductory course. “We love the audiobook industry and we want it to be full of seasoned professionals who are as good as possible at what they’re doing,” Ochlan said.
But, voice acting for audiobooks requires a different type of performance, one that Coleen Marlo describes as a “marathon.” Marlo has worked extensively as an actor and an audiobook performer and producer. She also taught for a decade at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York City. In May, she headed an intermediate and advanced voice performance class (in which students put together a fully-produced demo) at the Deyan Institute.
“[Audiobook performance] is for people who have a love of literature,” she says. “You have to love reading. It takes a certain type of artistic temperament and discipline to do this, and you don’t find that out until you start recording.”
Debra Deyan is now working to get the Institute accredited. Her goal isn’t to just offer weekend classes, but to develop a nine-month certification program for audiobook performance. “From there, we hope to get financial aid for students studying narration and voiceover,” she says. “We have a global vision.”
Debra is currently working with nearby California State University Northridge. Deyan Audio has an internship program with the university; Debra is exploring opportunities to host classes through the campus. She’s also considering making the Institute a nonprofit, in the hope that it will create opportunities for further collaboration with CSUN as well as generate more possibilities for donations that can be applied to scholarships.
You can learn more about the Deyan Institute of Voice Artistry and Technology at: