What do Hillary Clinton, Glenn Close, Toni Morrison, and Michael Douglas have in common? The answer is they’ve all recorded audiobooks in Westchester, at the Katonah-based recording company, Kessler Media Productions.
Robert Kessler, founder and CEO of the company, has worked in the audiobook industry pretty much since its inception, in the mid-1980s, and opened his own studio in the mid-’90s. To put things into perspective, when Kessler started in the industry, publishing giant Penguin Random House released only about 50 audiobook recordings a year. The industry has grown so much since then that 30 years later, they release more than 1,400 recordings a year.
“Many of the narrators we hire live in the Westchester area, and almost all are members of SAG-AFTRA,” Kessler says.
One of these Westchesterites is award-winning narrator Edoardo Ballerini, who started off as a TV-and-film actor prior to narrating his first book, Machiavelli’s The Prince, about 10 years ago. Since then, he’s been hooked.
Ballerini started recording in Westchester about two and a half years ago, after he moved from Manhattan to Hastings-on-Hudson. In addition to working with Kessler Media, he also collaborates with Voiceworks Audio in Irvington. Voiceworks is managed by producer and award-winning narrator Andy Paris, who, before opening his own studio, worked as a casting director at Recorded Books.
Contrary to what some may believe, narrating audio books isn’t some easy gig that just anyone can do for extra cash. “I’ve talked to some wonderful actors who’ve tried to do audiobooks,” Ballerini says, “and they’ve said that they just can’t do it.”
Yet, as an industry, it appears that it’s going to be green lights and blue skies for at least the foreseeable future. Says Ballerini: “The audiobook market is the fastest-growing section of publishing, and a lot of the major production is being done right here in Westchester.”