Buffalo Niagara Voice Over Talent
A Western New York Voice-Over Talent Shares How His Hometown Helped Shape His Voice-Over Career
by Peter K. O'Connell
OVER 30 YEARS AND GAGILLIONS OF COMMERCIALS AND NARRATIONS LATER, I still produce voice-over projects for clients around the globe via my professional voice-over studio in my hometown of Buffalo, NY. It's a great place to live and work.
Let me share with you here just a little bit about how Buffalo and Western New York have influenced my voice-over and broadcasting career. Here too is a brief sample of voice-over work I've done for Buffalo companies (a little more on some of those Buffalo-based clients later).
TO THIS DAY, even though I was just a little kindergartener at Medaille School (later known as Mount St. Joseph Academy) in Buffalo, NY, I vividly remember going on what become for me a prophetic school field trip with my classmates, led by my teacher, the kindly Sister Donna Marie of the Sisters of St. Joseph. She took our class to a local radio station, the now defunct WEBR-AM, so we could see what a modern radio station looked like (well, modern for 1969). I don't recall thinking at the time that this field trip was going to be all that exciting, just something a little different. It turned out to be both different and exciting for me.
WHEN MY 5 YEAR-OLD SELF walked into the WEBR control room (pictured on the right) and looked through the glass into the broadcast studio, I instinctively knew that something about my life was forever changed. My fascination with broadcasting began at that moment and hasn't subsided yet. Growing up (and even today) I listened and watched every local radio and television channel, learning directly from some crazy-talented Buffalo broadcasters and learning even more about the incredible broadcast history my hometown has made. As just one example, here are some of the folks who I think stand out among a uniquely talented group of Nickel City broadcasters. My abilities behind a microphone will forever pale in comparison to theirs, though it never stopped me from trying to build a career, partially based on what I learned from them.
AS THE FIRST STUDENT ever (that's what I was told anyway) at Canisius High School to secure a radio station internship at WFXZ-FM (now WBUF-FM), I was a bit of a novelty at a high school known more for churning out doctors, lawyers and business leaders than broadcasters (with Mark Russell and Tim Russert being two notable -and much more talented -CHS alumni exceptions). I even helped start a radio station at the high school. After graduating and moving to Dayton, OH, during my freshman year as a Radio & Television Broadcast Major at the University of Dayton, my Mom (yes, you read that right and it's a great story for another time) secured my summer internship in the Sports Department at WKBW-TV after having had a conversation with then weekend sports anchor and now Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame Member, Clip Smith.
IT WAS WHILE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF DAYTON that my broadcasting career truly began, because the University owned a 50,000 watt radio station serving three states, WVUD-FM. This station was unique in many ways, not the least of which was that it was a commercial radio station complete with full-time, professional broadcast management (General Manager, Program Director, Sales Department). This was not some part-time, half-assed college radio deal. Even better, the majority of the on-air talent were a very few, carefully-selected U.D. students who, like me, were very focused on their broadcast careers (and were paid to do it). I got on the air in my freshman year working as an afternoon news announcer, then I became the weeknight disc-jockey from 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. I was like a dog in a warehouse full of bones - I was very happy.
WHILE ON THE AIR, I also did shifts in the production department as a commercial voice talent and producer. Station clients seemed to really like my work and enjoyed working with me. Evidently my commercial and promotional creativity impressed management too at "Hitradio 100" and later "Today's Music" as I was asked to be the station's Production Manager. My voice - and plenty of my character voices - were featured on promos and spots for many brands including Elder-Beerman and the Cleveland Browns (whose games were broadcast on WVUD). I even did a spot for a Crosby, Still and Nash concert! Concurrently, I also hosted and produced the 5-hour all request oldies show Saturday Night Solid Gold, leading the show to the #1 spot in the ratings.
RETURNING TO BUFFALO after graduation, I briefly (I mean really briefly) worked in radio again at WLVL-AM in nearby Lockport, NY, all the while keeping my toe in the local voice-over waters doing spots for local companies including Burnham's Appliances and Marine Midland Bank (now HSBC Bank) among others. More recently, I've been fortunate enough to be the commercial or narration voice for many Buffalo and Western New York companies and brands like Rich Products, Evans Bank, Buffalo Medical Group, Erie Community College, KegWorks, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, The Buffalo News and Medaille College among others.
THE INTERNET HELPED ME achieve my goal of doing commercial and narration voice-over work nationally and internationally long ago. It was hard work. But I came from a city of hard workers (like those Buffalonians who helped build and host the 1901 Pan American Exposition, pictured above) - people who were committed to getting the job done, no matter what kind of work they did. My family and this city taught me what a strong work ethic was. I've not forgotten what I have learned from so many of my neighbors.
THROUGH AUDIO'CONNELL VOICE-OVER TALENT, my voice-over production company, I have expanded my voice-over business to almost every English speaking continent in the world. With hard work, good fortune and my family's support, I've been able to provide my voice-over services to amazing brands as Kraft Foods, Papa John's Pizza, General Electric, PBS and Bacardi Rum, as just a few examples.
FOR ME THOUGH, the foundation for it all started here in Buffalo, which is why Western New York is my home and my business headquarters.