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Barbara in action in the Audible recording booth, behind the soundproof glass

Barbara Records an Audiobook in the Studio with Audible

Do you have a favorite book or podcast? People love them for many of the same reasons they love reading, but one extra element makes them unique: The narrator’s voice! In an audiobook, a good narrator can draw you deeper into the story, make characters come alive, or transport you to a different time and place.

Barbara, age 79, listens to many audiobooks in her free time. “I am really influenced by the voices when I listen to a book,” she said.

But there’s another reason Barbara loves hearing books read out loud: She knows there’s so much more to it than meets the eye (or the ear).

That’s because Barbara has worked in speech pathology for over 50 years. A speech pathologist, sometimes called a speech therapist, helps patients with communication and swallowing problems. That could include helping an adult learn to speak clearl or teaching a child how to form sounds.

Throughout her career, Barbara has taught at seven different universities across the country, training and educating thousands of students along the way. She has impacted a generation of future speech pathologists as a clinical supervisor and has been a volunteer mentor to countless interns and trainees.

Giving back to others by sharing her time and expertise has been essential to Barbara’s life. In 2008, Barbara traveled to Costa Rica to work with laryngectomy patients—people who have had their larynx/ voice box removed. Although medical care is free in Costa Rica, Barbara discovered that many laryngectomees never speak again because they don’t have access to the speech therapy they need in order to learn esophageal speech. In just one week, she taught 16 patients how to communicate by using their lips, tongue, and teeth to form words from released air. When Barbara returned to the U.S., she made an award-winning documentary about the laryngectomy club and its progress.

Today, she still works in speech pathology and stays busy volunteering with groups around the United States. She is on the board of RISE, a program that offers education to older adults. Recently, Barbara completed a three-year term on the Missions and Outreach Council (MOMC) of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches (NACCC).

In this season of her life, Barbara has been thinking of her legacy. She has touched countless lives through her work, but she yearned for a tangible record— something to document one piece of herself for future generations to come: Her voice!

When we heard Barbara’s story, it was time to get creative. What would fulfill Barbara’s wish and also celebrate her life’s work? That’s when we knew just what to do.

Wish of a Lifetime teamed up with Audible, a creator and provider of audio storytelling to grant Barbara’s wish. And in March of 2022, Barbara and her companion Alan traveled to “The Big Apple” for an unforgettable experience.

Audible has studios all over the country, and Barbara and Alan were invited to see where the magic happens in New York City— a studio where professional voice actors record audiobooks every day!

But that was just the start of the story. Barbara worked with a professional voice coach and sound engineer to record her own audiobooks.

Barbara chose to record three well-known children’s stories by Hans Christen Andersen that are in the public domain. With the guidance of her voice coach, she made the fairy tales come alive by using different voices for different characters.

“I did a little kid voice,” she said. “They liked that one!”

Barbara also recorded some of her own poetry, a lullaby, and an original song she wrote. Now, her talents and voice are preserved forever and can be enjoyed by many generations to come.

“Our voices do not have to age or sound ‘old,’” Barbara said. “We can use techniques to continue to sound young and vibrant, even with a hearing loss such as the one I have.”

And even voice actors need headshots! Barbara’s special day included a photo shoot that captured her session in action.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you for a wonderful Wish of a Lifetime experience!” Barbara said. “It was so much fun reading in a recording studio… I will remember this experience for life!”

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