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Community News
Saturday, August 27, 2005

North County Standout: Pair fine-tunes actors' voices

By: JESSICA MUSICAR - For the North County Times

RANCHO PENASQUITOS ---- Voice acting or voice-over, the type of performance used to give words to animated, radio and other characters, is a bit more than speaking with a funny intonation and projecting into a microphone.

James R. Alburger, owner of The Commercial Clinic in Rancho Penasquitos, said the art of voice-over is something one can't simply jump into, but must hone just like any other performance skill.

"It is a communication form in which the audience has no connection to the actor except for the sound of his voice," said Alburger, who is also the author of "The Art of Voice-Acting," a guide to voice-over.

And that is exactly what he and his partner, Penny Abshire, teach at Alburger's home-based studio ---- how to make a character believable and real to the audience. The Commercial Clinic's teaching division of his business is known as The Commercial Clinic also provides businesses throughout the country with voice talent, sound design and audio production for radio commercials, training and corporate videos, and even telephone messaging.

Offering eight-week and weekend workshops, as well as telecourses to novice and experienced actors hoping to break into the voice-over industry, The Commercial Clinic teaches seven core elements of voice-overs, including audience, back story, character, desires and energy.

"They are very simple in concept, but putting them into practical use is where it all fits together," Alburger said.

The eight-week workshops are limited to 10 students to give them individualized attention during the 3 1/2-hour classes. Every student gets to spend time on the microphone to help develop their skills.

Weekend workshops are available for up to 30 people at a time. They learn the same elements as in the other workshop, but in a condensed version. However, exercises are performed in groups. Both the eight-week and weekend workshops cost $597 per person.

Abshire said that unlike regular acting, in which a performer can emote through facial expressions and body language as well as through words, voice actors only have their vocal chords to work with.

"Being able to act is crucial ---- it's not just being a nice voice," Abshire said.

Students aren't limited to individuals hoping to become the next voice of Homer Simpson. The Commercial Clinic also caters to business people, clergy, salesmen and the occasional broadcast journalist who want to improve their communication skills.

Jody Olson, a San Diego resident who took The Commercial Clinic's eight-week workshop at the beginning of the year, said he hopes to become a voice actor for commercials and/or audio books.

"I like the attitude of Jim and Penny; they are willing to help (me) and to push me to the edge to help me be the best I can be," Olson said. "They have a different approach to teaching that I think appeals to a wide range of people."

The Commercial Clinic was founded in 1998 by Alburger after he spent 25 years working as a director and audio producer for TV station NBC 7/39 in San Diego. Alburger said he was no longer having fun at his job, and decided to work in an industry he was already familiar with through his years of working with voice talent. Abshire was one of his original students.

Last year, The Commercial Clinic grossed $145,000, and Alburger said he plans to one day open a studio and classroom setting in an industrial park.

Standout Facts

Name: The Commercial Clinic
Address: Rancho Penasquitos
Phone: (858) 484-0220
Web site: and
Year established: 1998
Products and services: Voice-over workshops, as well as sound design and audio production for commercials, industrials and documentaries
Number of employees: Two
Size: 1,200-square-foot office, studio and training area
Gross sales: $145,000 for 2004

Contact freelance writer Jessica Musicar at [email protected]

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The Commercial Clinic, run by the voice-over team Penny Abshire and James Alburger, is a voice-over production company that makes commercials for clients throughout the United States.
Reina Santa Cruz/North County Times


“The Art of Voice Acting,” now in its second edition, is the best-selling book on voiceover.


The Art of Voice Acting 8-week and Weekend workshops teach highly effective communication skills to actors, business people, and anyone who uses their voice to deliver a message.


James Alburger and Penny Abshire work with business owners to develop effective communication skills for their personnel, management, and sales staff.


James Alburger received 11 Southwest Regional Emmy Awards for his work in television audio and sound design while at NBC-San Diego.



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