You Will Be Assimilated

I know that there is a rumor that Tavis Smiley was not wanted at NPR because he didn’t have the “NPR Voice” – that low, sedate, even toned voice that follows one of a limited few cadences. The Voice was satirized for a long time on a recurring Saturday Night Live skit about the fictional show “Delicious Dish.” (My favorites were the ones with Alec Baldwin where double entendres were made especially funny by the deadpan, oblivious delivery of the cast members.)

I was a little alarmed though when I heard an entry to Earth & Sky’s Young Producers Contest where a fifth grader was using The Voice to narrate his piece.

I imagine kids that age are smart enough to recognize the common elements of all the NPR shows and will put together what they think adults want. While I am glad the kid is listening to the informative NPR program rather than music talking about sex and alcohol, conformity to that ideal is gonna make high school hard on him. Ironically, I have to say I hope it is a phase he grows out of and begins to embrace a little rebellion. (Certainly his parents won’t thank me for that sentiment.)

While contests rewarding creativity do have many unwritten expectations, they are about showing yourself off rather than mimicking what you have heard. Thus, I was rather pleased to see that the grand prize winners didn’t use The Voice. In fact, it was sort of hard to hear what they were saying because their enunciation was so poor.

Keep up the good work showing off yourselves kids!

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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