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VOICE-OVER ARTIST

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

dog food.

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 BASICS

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

commercial.

More information:

American Federation of Television & Radio Artists

www.aftra.org/aftra/aftra.htm/

SoundHound

www.soundhound.com,

212-575-8664

Soundsmith

www.soundsmith.org,

631-385-2406

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