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John Grossman Interviewed, Voice of Valley Forge National Historical Park

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

June 25, 2008

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Valley Forge soldiers on horsesAre you looking for a destination this summer to take your family to?

Consider Valley Forge National Historical Park in Pennsylvania where you'll be swept up in an audio tour narrated by John Grossman!

Learn more about this unique audio tour here at VOX Daily.

VOX: How did you become the voice of Valley Forge National Historical Park?

JOHN GROSSMAN: This is kind of a long story, but I will do my best to minimize it.

I used to drive by the park everyday and occasionally I would tune into their AM radio signal to listen to details about the park.

¦the park is open this time to that time...bicycle rentals,¦ visit the Welcome center¦ Pretty standard stuff when it comes to general announcements. The voice on the recording was decent, however the quality of the recording itself was shameful. I realize there are limitations with AM quality broadcasts, but this was almost unlistenable and therefore of no value to visitors.

I started to write a letter to the Superintendent (CEO) of the park, offering to volunteer my services as Pennsylvania native, history buff and voiceover artist. Basically, stating, your recording is so bad, you need my help! But in a nice way!

My wife after proofreading my letter, said, œYou should just redo the recording and send it in.

Great idea! It is only a 2-3 minute message¦

I recorded the message on my car stereo (I have USB port that allows me to use a thumb drive) to record what I want. Very handy! Once I got home, I transcribed the message and re-recorded the message in my home studio.

The next day, I dropped off the recording on a custom printed CD, my business card and my newly revised letter explaining that I am a voice over artist and why I wanted to do this for the park.

I live approximately 15 miles from the park. After dropping it off and driving home, I was in my house, no more than 30 seconds, when the Superintendant of park, called to thank me for my donation. That recording and its quality had been œa thorn in his side and was thrilled someone had redone it. Moreover, he went to explain that the park just received a generous grant from PECO (local energy company) to redo all of their audio tours, kiosks, multimedia programs, etc. and that they need a new voice for that stuff.. You can guess who got the gig!

This process started over 18 months ago¦ the first go around was with a different script, production crew, etc. I was simply the main narrator. That completed project never saw the light of day for various reasons.

Some time after that, I was asked if I could deliver a fully produced audio tour based on a new script.

With the help of additional voice talents and an amazing production crew, we did just that within the time specified and under budget.


VOX: Did this project hold special interest for you? Was it of particular importance to you?

JOHN: As a Pennsylvania native, and huge history buff, in particular the Revolutionary War, that area holds great interest to me. My grandfather was a Military historian with contributions to the Smithsonian Institute, Marine Corp museum and many others. In addition to my own enjoyment, I did it for his memory.


VOX: Were you the person who spearheaded the entire project? Why hadn't there been a new audio tour for 26 years?

JOHN: I took over as Executive Producer for the tour working in tandem with the Encampment Store (park book store) and the park.

As for no new tour? I honestly don™t know, but I can suspect it had to do with budgetary constraints.


VOX: Can you tell me a little bit about the audio tour? What kind of information is included?

JOHN: I have attached a recent article from the local newspaper, TimesHerald.com. That should help answer this question.

"Valley Forge National Historical Park has upgraded its old audio tour with a new CD packed with Colonial-era music, rousing sound effects and compelling portrayals of Revolutionary War soldiers who spent the winter at Valley Forge. The 60 minutes of audio production is designed for visitors to take a leisurely drive through Valley Forge, the narrator prompting park visitors to stop and get a history lesson about Muhlenberg Brigade, Washington™s Headquarters, Grande Parade, among many other points of interest tucked into the bucolic landscape."


VOX: Where did you record the voice overs?

JOHN: The full production took place here.

Tom McCaffery™s studio AKA
Real Help Communications, Inc.
(888) REAL HELP
(215) 887-2818 voice
(413) 604-9430 fax
realhelp@realhelp.net
http://www.realhelp.net


VOX: How long did it take to complete the project?

JOHN: 5-6 months. The hardest part, as with most projects, was the last minute details. In particular, the timing of the 60 minute driving tour. I MUST give full credit to Tom McCaffery for making this work out so perfectly. I would like to single out Tom McCaffrey for his relentless drive for excellence on the recording and production side of the tour.

VOX: When people are at Valley Forge National Historical Park, how can they listen to your voice over?

JOHN: I can be heard on the following:

1) Visitor Information (AM radio tour)
2) Various podcasts available on the website and I-tunes
3) Audio Driving Tour (available for purchase in the Encampment Store)
4) More projects to come!


VOX: Was the VO mostly straight narration or did you do some voice acting as well to make the copy come alive using characters?

JOHN: I provided the Main Narration. Some wonderful additional talent was brought in for various parts.

Here is the entire production crew:

Narrator “ John Grossman
Tour Direction Narrator “ Laurel M. Grossman
George Washington “ Dean Malissa
Alexander Hamilton / Old Man “ Geoffrey Berwind
Joseph Plumb Martin / Young Man “ Tommy McCaffrey

Executive Producer: John Grossman
Produced by Tom McCaffrey and John Grossman
Artistic Consultant - Geoffrey Berwind

Music by John Lionarons
Authentic Sound FX recorded by Marc Steuben

Mixed, Edited & Mastered by Tom McCaffrey, Real Help Communications, Inc., 222 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, PA 19038


VOX: How has the audio tour been received by the visitors to Valley Forge National Historical Park?

JOHN: I drove the completed tour with my family, President™s Day weekend, when it debuted. To support the park, I wanted to buy my own copy even though, I was getting free ones soon enough.

While waiting in line at the Encampment Store, I watched a father/scout leader allow his children/scouts to pick out a few items, while he grabbed for the audio tour conveniently placed by the register. After he purchased his items, I handed him my card and indentified myself as part of the team that produced this NEW audio tour. I asked him to call me or shoot me an email after his tour was done, as I would like his opinion of the production/directions/info, etc.

Attached is the message he left me IMMEDIATELY after finishing his tour. I did edit out his name and phone number for privacy™s sake! For all those involved, this review certainly brought a smile to our collective faces.

This positive review has been pretty much the sentiment of everyone!


VOX: Have you done narration for other national historical parks in the US?

JOHN: In the process of working with two other national parks to produce their tours! But we always have room for more!


Have You Recorded any Audio Tours?

Leave a comment!

Best wishes,

Stephanie

Related Topics: Audio Tour, child, Interview, John Grossman, Narrator, radio, Valley Forge National Historical Park, Voice Acting


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