Jill St. John
Born: Sioux Falls, SD, 1966
Education: High school graduate
Business: Professional Voice Services
Community volunteering: Started Cares for Kids radio-a-thon in 1999 to benefit MeritCare Foundation, children’s school, Nativity Catholic Church
On leadership, “A leader is someone who adapts creatively to all individuals they are leading toward success rather than making people conform to their ‘one and only way,’”
Jill’s first job was in radio as a 16 year old and just a few years later she took an on-air position at Lite Rock in Fargo after graduating from high school. She lived and worked in Fargo from 1984 to 1991 and then returned in 1999. In between, she moved as needed when her husband attended graduate school and then for other opportunities. Jill and her family lived in Milwaukee, WI, Minneapolis and St. Cloud, MN, before returning to Fargo. In Milwaukee, Jill was on an oldies morning radio show, on mornings at KDWB in Minneapolis/St.Paul and also was a copywriter for the station. Jill and her husband decided to return to this area to raise their children; Hannah who is ten and Adam who is eight.
By 2001, and in commercial radio for 21 years, Jill felt changes coming with the advent of corporate radio ownership and decided to go on her own with a new business. That year she started Professional Voice Services and, by 2002, was very busy with clients who needed voice work. She is currently the voice of Northern Home Furniture, Park Company Realty, Hector International Airport and Sunmart commercials, is the voice on Lexli Skin Care products infomercials (which air around the world), Microsoft software tutorials, and documentary narrations such as “House of Babies” which is airing on the Discovery Health channel across the world.
Talents that serve Jill well in her profession include the knack for sight reading that she says comes from her years of reading news right off the news wire live on-air. This skill enables Jill to cut voice-overs (the voice in commercials) the first time though for a 30 or 60 second commercial without making a mistake. She can also read long copy (such as a script) for hours without taking a break, not making a mistake and yet can speak more than 190 words per minute.
Most people do not know that Jill is from a radio family – her brother is WDAY’s Scott Hennen and she has a sister who is also in radio. People may also not know that Jill almost pursued a different career when her high school art teacher encouraged her to apply for a scholarship to attend the Boston Institute of Art. Instead she applied and was hired at “Lite 105” (which became Lite Rock 105) right after high school graduation. With Jill’s interest in the arts, it is not surprising to learn that Jill dabbles in photography and enjoys painting when she has the time.
A typical day for Jill includes being on call to clients who need short advertising copy scripts quickly read and taped, working for contract clients, and then reading for 15 minutes up to five hours straight in a studio for a project. It is unusual, but at times Jill has read for eight hours continually on a project. She drives from studio to studio in Fargo-Moorhead during the day depending on which client she is working for while making sure she has time to devote to her children and their activities.
Exciting trends are currently taking place in the voice profession and Jill said that they are closely related to changes in technology. She said that audio books are becoming popular again with people listening to material on MP3 players and I Pods and creates a market for books to be read out loud and recorded. Tutorials for software are also creating a large need for professional voices to narrate instructions. Jill adds that the industry is at a very exciting point because of broadband capabilities to move voice through the internet.
All change is opportunity to her and Jill has chosen to look at professional obstacles in this way. While adapting to industry changes, Jill strives to keep learning by reading many professional magazines, including Business Week, continuing to network with friends in the industry and working to keep up with what technology can offer to the delivery of voice.
Jill’s inspiration comes from several women; Maryann Philips of Video Arts Studio in Fargo and her ability to be successful even as the production industry drastically changed, her late Grandmother Bertha who raised fifteen children (without modern conveniences) and Jill’s mother Jeanette who became an independent career sales woman at a time when it was very difficult for a woman to get established in a career. Jill stresses that her mother continually inspires her because her mother gets more successful in business every year.
Jill’s favorite quote is one that describes to her the responsibility of being on-air in radio: A broadcast channel news director said to a producer, it must be nice to be the smartest person in the room … to always know what’s best for people,” To which the producer replied, “No – it’s awful.” Jill underscores the meaning of this exchange by saying that being on-air in radio is sometimes a burden and sometimes good.
So, the next time you are listening to your radio, watching TV or following a Microsoft software tutorial, it is very likely that you are listening to the distinctive and successful voice of Jill St. John.
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