12 Questions: Dennis Steele

Dennis SteeleHi, I’m Dennis Steele.

I am a freelance writer/producer/voice actor, with commercial clients such as the Phillies, the PA Lottery, the Inquirer, Car Sense, the Sands Co., plus numerous Medical/Pharma clients, financial service firms, political campaigns and insurance companies.  I’ve narrated a number of films, including “Seeing the Gross Clinic Anew,” produced by The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and “Footsteps in the Snow,” a Lifetime Movie Network presentation, produced by Nancy Glass Productions.  I also generate about 600 on-hold messages a year.

My writing/production credits include: Steven Singer Jewelers, EP Henry, Solar City, Dish Network, etc. I’ve produced corporate videos, TV commercials, fund-raising films and just recently completed an animated video with my buddy Dave Blazek for Xylem, Inc.

Notable Accomplishments:  Voice on virtually all Phillies TV and radio commercials for 15+ years, creator of the “I Hate Steven Singer” radio ad, which became the cornerstone of Steve’s decade+ “I Hate Steven Singer” campaign.  Two Philly Gold Awards and four Addys.  Little League baseball/softball coach for 18 years.

I live and work in Villanova and have been married to my high school sweetheart for 35 years.  Three of our four kids are “off the grid,” and are highly-functioning adults.  Addicted to television and media of all sorts, love good food and wine, sports (esp. the Phillies,) bicycling, and hearing and telling good stories.

You can reach me at [email protected] and www.steele-creative.com

And now, the 12 Questions:

1. What kind of kid were you?

My family insists I’ve been “showing off for company” since I could talk.  I have two much older siblings and one much younger, so I had no real “sibling rivalry,” and I spent a lot of time on my own.  I watched a lot of TV as a kid, and as a result, just like our parents warned us, it rotted my brain.

In the third grade, I was cast in a college production of “A Music Man,” and my fate was sealed.  I’ve been performing pretty much ever since.  I was in an all-city boys choir in middle school, acted in plays and sang in a rock band in high school and college, and I received my BFA in radio/TV and film from the University of Cincinnati-College/Conservatory of Music (CCM).  So the professional baseball career had to be put on hold.

2. What influences have shaped you?

First and foremost is my wife and best friend, who is the smartest, most decent, logical and ethical person I know.  Not sure where I would be without her.  My mother, who is 94 years-old, taught me resilience and the benefits of seeing the glass as half-full.  I have some great men in my life ,whom I looked up to and still do:  My dad, my brother, my older brother-in-law, my father-in-law.  Professionally, my old friend from high school, Tom Sandman, who advised me to go to CCM, and helped get me my first “real” radio job, as his assistant at WEBN in Cincinnati.  I learned so much of what I know about writing and production from him.

Locally, I don’t have a voice-over career without Scott Sanders, Gary Bridges and Gary Moskowitz, former owner of Baker Sound.  My love of American History and politics can be traced to two influential teachers, one in high school and one in college.  I can’t underestimate the influence of Looney Tunes, Monty Python, Firesign Theatre and the National Lampoon.  And a great group of friends in and out of the business continue to shape and motivate me today.

3. Ever done anything really dumb?

Every day I do at least one dumb thing.  I’m very forgetful.  Seriously, I lose my keys about three times a week.  My dumbest career move was taking a radio job, sight-unseen, from an ad in a trade paper, which landed me in Flint, Michigan.  The station was #1 in the market, but the facility was so bad, they had a room air conditioner in the production studio.  Think about that.  The nine months spent in Flint were the most surreal times of my career.

4. How’d you learn to do what you do?

I learned how to sing, including breathing, in the Boys’ Choir as a kid.  I received a lot of great training in announcing in college, including pacing, script marking and microphone technique.  WEBN in Cincinnati was formative in my learning how to tell stories with just voice, music and sound effects.  And before I ever started shopping a demo to ad agencies and studios in Philadelphia, I had read over 3000 spots as a station producer.

5. What are you working on now?

I just finished collaborating with my buddy Dave Blazek (the brilliant ad writer for the Inquirer and author of the syndicated cartoon, “Loose Parts”) on an animated “Year in Review” video for Xylem, Inc. in NJ.  I created sound files for Nationwide Bi-Weekly Administration’s phone system, and recorded some on-hold messaging for long-time client, Spectrio, in Florida.  Last month, I wrote and produced a series of 15-second radio spots for Steven Singer that are currently running on satellite and internet radio. Last week, I actually did a political ad. I wrote some Dish Network radio copy for the Radio Agency in Media, and I narrated seven corporate jobs for various pharma/medical clients.

6. Walk us through a typical day at work.

That’s one of the things I love about my job; there really isn’t a “typical” day.  Every day is different.  But there are patterns.  I seldom get booked for a vo job more than a week in advance, so my schedule has to be fairly flexible.  I get up pretty early in the morning; usually before 6:30, because my wife and daughter are up and out early for work/school. I have a wonderful workspace in my home, with plenty of room to write, or play music (to distract me from writing,) and a basic rig for recording vo at home.  I prefer working at one of the local studios to working at home, but these days, it’s unavoidable.  When I’m in a studio, it’s usually at Baker, Alkemy X, Philly Post, Center City Film and Video, 2nd Street in NoLibs or Mars Audio in Gulph Mills.  When I’m not doing the work, I’m trolling for more work, or working to get paid for the work.

7. Who do you love?

I love my wife most of all, my kids, my new daughter-in-law and her family, my extended family, including my wife’s enormous clan, my mom, my siblings and their kids and grandkids.  I’m blessed to have some tremendous colleagues who’ve become close friends.  Our neighborhood is unusually close, and we’ve made some great friends there. And my wife and I have some close friends whom we’ve known since we first got to Philly in the 80’s.  Can’t forget our two Westies.

8. What are you passionate about?

Again, my wife is right at the top of the list.  I’m intensely interested in my kids’ lives and try to stay close, without hovering.  I have a passion for collaborating with people, whether it’s working on a project, playing music with friends (I play a little guitar and mandolin…very little), or cooking with a group of people.  I care very deeply about current events and politics, although I never wade into those waters except with family and close friends, and never on social media.  I love music, all kinds.  And I love history, especially American history.  I love the pursuit of excellence, whether it’s in sports, music, art or storytelling.  I’ve been known to get passionate about the Phillies and Eagles.

9. What are you proudest of?

First, my marriage, and the life my wife and I have built together.  Next are my kids.  They are a constant source of joy. I’ve been able to make a pretty good living here as a freelancer for going on 28 years.  And there’s only a couple of people in town who don’t speak to me, so that’s good.  I’m proud to have so many long relationships and steady, regular clients.  There’s nothing better than good word-of-mouth, and repeat business.

10. Describe a great night out.

A great night out usually involves people I really like, good food, wine (red).  Lots of laughing.  Stories.  Once in awhile, a good cigar (not good for the voice.)  Very often, it involves music, either making it, or enjoying it in the foreground or background.

11. So what’s next for you?

I hope to keep my clients happy for another year. There are always surprises; new projects, new opportunities.  I’d love to do more work like narrating documentaries.  I’m open to whatever lurks around the corner that we can’t see yet.

12. What will your epitaph say?

“That guy really knew how to parallel-park.”

PCG Staff

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