My Bristol: Melissa Thom | Founder of Bristol Academy of Voice Acting (BRAVA)

Meet the founder of Bristol Academy of Voice Acting (BRAVA), Melissa Thom.

I’ve lived in Bristol for 18 years and there’s so much that makes the city unique. For me, it’s the people and the feel of the place. I love that we have so many large green spaces that are all walkable from the centre.

I started my career in commercial radio – on Brighton’s Surf 107.2 as station voice in 1999, then weekday breakfast presenter for GWR’s Gemini FM; weekends on Bristol’s Galaxy 101. I’ve been voicing for brands in the commercial and corporate sector for many years and a bit later got involved in gaming, which I absolutely love. I’m also experienced in marketing, digital agencies and startups. In 2016, I spent nearly two years in California working as a voice actor, which was a blast. I worked with some of the best in the industry and established my career in America, signing to a number of US agents, who I continue to voice for today. When I came back to the UK, I started teaching voice acting at drama schools, including Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and LIPA, alongside my full time role as a VO.

Lockdown was a difficult time for many professional actors, while the voice acting industry continued to thrive. It was at that point I thought about setting up something more established, and it made sense to pass on some of my knowledge and experience in a meaningful and useful way, as well as bring in some of the master coaches from America that I’d met along the way. During the pandemic, actors were coming to me to help them add VO to their skillset and BRAVA was born out of that need.

BRAVA offers personalised training in the art and business of voiceover and is aimed at anyone interested in adding voice acting to their skillset. We bring together performance experts from the UK and US to deliver high quality training and advice about the industry. Much of our offering is 1-1, as well as group sessions, and cover a wide range of topics, including Getting Started in VO, Corporate, Commercial and Narration, Performance Techniques, Auditions, Vocal Health and Presentation Skills. We also invite master coaches from the US to run in-person sessions.

BRAVA is made up of some really lovely people, so it’s a genuine joy when we come together. But people tell us it’s about so much more. We really help to build confidence in performers, as that’s often the barrier to entry, and we provide consistent support.

We’ve got a lot going on at BRAVA this year, delivering our core teaching and training and we’ll be heading back to San Francisco in late March to showcase our talent, which I’m really excited about. We’ve got a whole roster of events including talks from industry professionals, masterclasses, our advanced character summer workshop and more – and we’ll continue to work with our incredible partners across the city to support our talent every step of the way.

When I’m looking to be entertained in the city, I either head to The Everyman or Watershed to watch as many films as possible. Chandos Road is where I pop out for a drink or a bite to eat. I love going to St George’s to listen to some music or Bristol Old Vic to catch a play when I can.

At the moment, I’m reading Katherine Rundell’s The Transformations of John Donne and I’m savouring every single sentence. She is an incredible writer. I’ve recently started watching Tokyo Vice, which I’m loving. I’m mainly listening to Agnes Obel and local artist, Billy Nomates, on repeat. Even the kids know all the words. And Radio Paradise when I want to feel like I’m back in sunny California.

If I could have dinner with anyone from any era, it would have to be Nina Simone. I met her while I was hosting the Bishopstock Blues Festival in 2001. I think her art is something quite unique. Meeting her briefly was something I’ll never forget and I would love to sit down and have dinner with her for a longer conversation.

My philosophy in life is: keep it simple, focus on the next step and surround yourself with people that make you feel good. Travel and read as much as you can and be genuinely interested in other people. That approach has saved me many times whenever I’ve encountered difficulties on my travels.

For more information about Bristol Academy of Voice Acting (BRAVA), visit: