Cindy Clifford's laugh is contagious in the cozy Huntington
recording studio. But it's her warm, energetic voice that Leer Leary and Lou
Maurio are fixated on, right down to how excited she should sound over
sale-priced ice cream in a radio commercial.
"Lou, this is a D-E-A-L," Clifford jokes from the sound booth between takes
as she makes a case for emphasizing certain copy to Maurio, president of Stark
Raving Adz, who represents the Dairy Barn account Clifford is voicing
commercials for. As Clifford and Maurio banter, Leary, creative director of
Soundsmith, precisely monitors the recordings down to seconds and frames.
Clifford, 50, makes her job look easy. A longtime voice-over artist, she
effortlessly gets into character: moving her shoulders and arms to the rhythm
of the copy's dialogue. On this morning, she's taping several commercials for
Dairy Barn and is enthusiastically boasting about everything from ice cream to
The Riverhead resident, whose voice is reminiscent of comedian Molly
Shannon's, says voicing commercials is a dream come true. As a child she would
often pitch products in front of the bathroom mirror. "I would read shampoo
bottles, ... the back of the Crest label. It was like I was training for it,
but never knew it."
In fact, the bathroom performances would pay off one day. While taking
classes at Suffolk County Community College as a newly single mom in the late
1970s, Clifford interviewed at a new radio station WWHB in Hampton Bays. She
was interested in voicing commercials but was offered a job hosting the
station's children's radio show. Her voice was soon noticed by a local
advertising executive who cast her in a commercial for a Long Island nightclub.
Clifford was hooked. She approached radio station WRCN's general manager in
the early '80s about voicing commercials on a freelance basis. She landed a
better deal, becoming the Riverhead station's production director. For the next
four years, Clifford oversaw commercials and worked as a rock jock on weekends.
By the mid-'80s, Clifford missed voicing copy and started producing
commercials for local businesses as a freelancer. Soundsmith's Leary often cast
her in ads and her demo tapes were bringing in calls. Four years ago, she
started hosting a weekday morning show on WALK-FM 97.5 with Mark Daniels.
Clifford, who is married to her second husband, Bob, and is the mother of
two daughters, says she's been fortunate to develop a career doing voiceovers.
She credits her vocal range which spans warm and friendly, soft and
professional, and really energetic. Her ultimate goal, she says, is to land a
Tide commercial and voice a cartoon character.
Her enthusiasm and professionalism has left an impression on Maurio. "Cindy
is very versatile ... and has a great personality. She has that bright voice
that just makes you smile."
The job: Voice-over artist
Qualifications: Experts say it takes more than just a unique or spectacular
voice to break into the business. Lou Maurio, president of Stark Raving Adz,
says voice-over artists have to be able to interpret a script and bring it to
life. Leer Leary, creative director of Soundsmith, suggests beginners approach
local ad agencies or radio stations for commercial work or local companies that
may need a "voice" for their voicemail recordings. Providing character voices
on Internet cartoons is another way to gain experience and get samples for a
demo (a voice-over artist's "audio" resume). Once a good demo is created, start
circulating it to talent agents.
Demand: Highly competitive. Assignments range from voicing animated
characters and talking toys to telephone systems and commercials. Most work is
booked through talent agencies and production houses.
Salary: Typically paid per diem. Compensation varies by assignment and
experience; some jobs require union membership. Leary says rates can run from
$75 for voicing a single line of copy to as high as $700 for a 30-second
American Federation of Television & Radio Artists