If you could invest $49 dollars to dive into a $12 billion-a-year industry, would you do it?

Ten individuals did just that, signing up for an introductory voice-over class at the Mt. Diablo Adult Education Center in Pleasant Hill.

The class, taught by Lisa Foster, a voice expert who arrived from her home in Seattle, packing 15 years in broadcasting, offered a bird's-eye view on the field.

"People typically want to know how to find voice-over work," Foster said, in a post-class interview. "There are so many ways to get your voice out there, and the Internet plays an important part of marketing."

Foster runs a whirlwind business as a voice-over artist, judge for celebrity competitions, speaker at corporate events, co-host of morning radio drive broadcasts, and six distinct "personas" she has created.

At any given moment, Foster might be in Chicago, or Atlanta or Houston.

"A voice talent can set up a "travel studio" that is compact, portable and creates dynamite sound, so doing voice work while you are on vacation is a snap!"

At home, Foster has a top-of-the-line recording studio. Although electronics' plunging prices mean it's now possible to set up a system for approximately $500, Foster's Pro-Tools with an MBox audio interface, Sterling microphone, Behringer B-1 microphone, Sony MDR-7506 studio headphones, and M-Audio studio monitors ran a higher tab.

"When I set up my studio eight years ago, the cost was roughly $4,000," she admitted, before emphasizing a more important aspect: training.


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"Look for a reputable demo producer/coach who knows the industry standards of doing a voice-over demo (spoken word demos are entirely different from music demos), and never let someone put you in the recording booth to record that demo before you have had coaching," she instructed.

The cost for this kind of coaching can fall between $2,000 and $5,000, which is why signing up for a class with Foster, who offered individual feedback sessions the day following the class, was a no-brainer for Concord resident Susan Cassone.

"It gave me an idea as to the processes you need to go through," Cassone said. "There was a lot about buying equipment so you can do it at home. And basic information about shopping your product."

Cassone learned she has "a silky voice" that would benefit from training. She teaches drama and music at a summer camp and even if she doesn't pursue doing it professionally, she will use the information about projecting, speaking clearly and slowing down with her students.

"Before now, I didn't know how to get into that particular line of work. Now I know the field is so much wider than I imagined it to be," she says.

Indeed, the digital world has blown open the possibilities for voice-over artists. There is the obvious film and television work, but beyond that, there's web audio, interactive museum kiosks, DVD voice-overs, podcasts, video games, on-hold or automatic messaging systems (when was the last time a live person answered a phone?), cellphone apps and ATMs.

"The audio book industry has exploded with production opportunities since technology makes it easier than ever to download this type of medium," Foster explains. "The dollars this industry is generating is staggering: nearly $1 billion in gross production revenues expected in 2012."

Debra Carvalho already has a miniboom of her own, working as a hypnotist in Clayton.

"I took the class because I am getting into a professional recording studio this year," she says, "I'm recording CDs for my hypnosis business. What I learned will save a lot of money."

Carvalho says she takes at least one or two adult education classes a year and that Foster's class was "pretty jam-packed" with information.

I wound up learning so much about how to record professionally that I'm thinking of doing it part time," she declares.

Susie Stanley, program coordinator for MDAE, said the class is offered about two times a year.

Information about adult education is available at www.mdusd.k12.ca.us/adulted.

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