Famous Voice

Words of Wisdom

by Jonathan Everitt

Hobart wasn’t the last stop in Alan Kalter’s ’64 education, but during his college years in Geneva while working in local radio, he got the first taste of his eventual 40-year broadcasting career.

Until May 20, 2015, when Late Show with David Letterman aired for the last time, the Brooklyn, N.Y., native was the show’s renowned announcer. But his journey to the big microphone was circuitous, first at New York University Law, then teaching high school English for three years, during which time he recorded hundreds of educational tapes and emceed weekend shows at a radio station just outside New York City.

“I left teaching for an afternoon radio show at WTFM, and was hired to be a newsman at WHN Radio in New York, which quickly became a four-year gig interviewing celebs who came into town for movie and Broadway openings, as well as covering nightclub openings three or four nights a week.”

When WHN turned to a Country format, Kalter began voicing commercials — which led to work as a TV show announcer. Over the years, he’s been the voice of, among others, To Tell the Truth, The $20,000 Pyramid, The Money Maze, and The $128,000 Question.

His most recent gig of 20 years came to an end this May with the retirement of David Letterman. “It’s been the best job in the world – loads of fun and although I’ll miss Dave, Paul, that great CBS Orchestra and my Late Show family, I’m so grateful for the long run we’ve had and a bunch of terrific memories,” Kalter says. “I loved what they let me be – a 10 year old, paid for doing stuff my mom would never have let me get away with.”

Back at HWS, it was a fluke that he landed a job at WGVA in Geneva. He applied to be an announcer on a dare, and the station didn’t initially take him seriously, nor want to hire college students. But in a twist of fate, one of their announcers quit the day after Kalter’s audition, and WGVA offered him a job.

“They asked me if I wanted to do the news, but soon expanded that to playing the Top 40 and traveling throughout the area as a play-by-play announcer for high school basketball.”

And in that first broadcasting gig, young Kalter put the job to work for him, scoring press passes to major sports events on summer break. He also took full advantage of access to WGVA’s studio.

“In my off hours, I would create the music tapes for all our fraternity parties from the 45’s that came in to the radio station.”

His rule-bending, career-changing path makes him an ideal storyteller for the Colleges, which is why he’s served as Class Correspondent since 1972 — and a frequent advice dispenser for the next generation of students.

“The Colleges called me in 1972 when I was doing radio for WHN and they asked me if they could do a story on me, and when they were leaving, I said, why isn’t there a class correspondent for the class of ’64. When they got back to me, they asked if I wanted to do it. I was doing a lot of commercial work after I left WHN. That work took me all over the country and the world. Whenever I visited a new city, I would look up folks from the class of ’64 and, time permitting, would get together with them for a drink.”

Kalter’s varied adventures, affection for fellow alums, and seasoned wisdom make him a perfect host for the Colleges’ annual “Behind The Scenes” program. It’s important to Kalter to help students facing life after graduation gain some perspective. He serves it up in full helpings.

“A lot of times, young people can’t see where their lives are going to take them,” he says. “I think it’s important to go into something you might be good at, but that you’re going to love. I have people who come to me at 40 or 50 and they say they made the wrong decision way, way back – they hate the law or teaching. They want to break into voice acting. By then, it’s usually too late. Do it now. With talent, perseverance, a few good breaks and the right timing, you’ll get there. Add a few lucky breaks, the right timing and some good advice from those who’ve gone before and there’s no stopping you.”

Connecting with people who’ve come before you is a great way to start.

“When you’re young, you meet so many people and you need to take advantage of those relationships with alums and teachers,” Kalter says. “Ask, listen, learn! I’m 72 years old and still treasure advice and relationships that could lead to a job tomorrow.”

Today, Kalter is “The Voice” — on Broadway, emitting from the radio in Hereafter Musical; in commercials; as a guest on radio and TV shows; as emcee of corporate galas and charity events; and maybe one day, David Letterman’s announcer on a CBS Late Show Reunion. “But today, I am playing golf,” he says.


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