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The Lifeline

Bringing you the best local stories in and around our community.

Act II

Featured Photo from Act II

Retirement is not for everybody, and it just didn’t work out for two local go-getters who found fulfilling new careers after their traditional working days were done

A Voice in the Crowd

Lake Mary’s Dan Wachs put his rich voice to work for him early on. He worked as a disc jockey and newscaster at radio stations throughout the Northeast, including a 250-watt station so small, “you could barely hear it outside in the parking lot,” he jokes.

Dan eventually moved into the business end of radio and became the general manager of two Central Florida oldies stations. In fact, he was the general manager of Cool 105.9 FM back when the station was headquartered at State Road 434 and Markham Woods Road. But he missed using his pipes.

Today, well into retirement, Dan is doing better than ever, thanks to that voice. He has become a highly successful voice-over artist, working on everything from documentaries to major sporting events. It’s a dream job, he says. He never has to leave his home, which doubles as a recording studio. He can wake up in the morning, check his email, then walk a few yards to work.

“It doesn’t matter what you look like,” Dan says. “It matters what you sound like.”

Dan knew as a young boy that he had an expressive voice. He used a tape recorder to do John F. Kennedy impressions, and he often put on little comedy skits for his family and friends. Today, in addition to all his voice-over duties, Dan teaches classes to those interested in going into his line of work.

Dan got some preparation for his current career when he helped make radio commercials in the 1970s. But while it may sound counter-intuitive, Dan maintains that a radio background can actually be “deadly” to someone wanting to break into the voice-over game. That is because, he explains to his students, most of his clients aren’t looking for that polished, perfect-diction announcer voice from a                   movie trailer.

“They want that real guy next door, the mom, the dad, the sister, the brother, the friend,” says Dan. “They don’t want that golden throat.”

Thanks to the endless variety of his gigs, Dan never grows bored. For The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, he voiced the words of a chaplain delivering a eulogy. He narrated a documentary on the St. Louis Police Department. His is the voice in a jaunty beachside beer commercial. And Dan has done work for such major sports teams as the Buffalo Bills, the Texas Rangers, and the New Orleans Saints.

Those are among the hundreds of clients, from places as far away as China and Guam, who have sought Dan out. And he has only been at it for seven years.

“It’s been a whole new chapter in my life,” he says. “It’s been an absolute blast.”

Teacher for Life

Dr. Artie Almeida spent three decades sharing her love for the magic of music with students at Bear Lake Elementary School. Now that she’s retired from the school system, Artie now shares all the tricks of her trade with others in her field.

Artie, who also happens to be an author and crack saxophone player, is now a music education consultant. She travels throughout the country, and to such places as Taiwan and Singapore, holding clinics for music educators.

“Music teachers are some of the happiest people on the planet,” Artie says. “And I am still teaching thousands of children each year via their teachers who are using my lesson ideas and materials. That is so rewarding.”

Artie was destined to be a musical creature. Her mother played numerous instruments, and Artie grew up listening to orchestral, jazz, folk, and pop songs. From her dad, an engineer and inventor, she got an urge to create and embrace “weird and wonderful ideas,” she says.

By the fourth grade, Artie was playing guitar for her Girl Scout troop, and in  the sixth grade, she joined the school band, which began her lifelong affair with the sax.

As a music teacher, Artie aimed to deliver “high-quality, rigorous music instruction in a very child-friendly way,” she says.
She has carried that same philosophy into her clinics, which take her to up to 25 states in a year.

Artie’s sense of fun can be discerned in the numerous publications she has authored. Kidstix, for example, is a book of percussion lessons using unusual and found sounds. Artie’s Jazz Pack includes games and activities for teaching children about jazz.

While at Bear Lake, Artie figures she probably spent more hours in the music room than at home. She created the Bear Lake Sound ensemble, whose student members wowed audiences with creative percussion.

“I really felt that the best of me was the Bear Lake me,” Artie says.

Despite her extensive travel schedule today, when she is home, Artie can luxuriate in ways she could not as a classroom teacher. Sleeping until 7:00 a.m. and shopping for groceries while the sun is still out are both pretty nice, she says.

“My workload is much lighter, but I am still working many hours on behalf of the music education community and our children,” says Artie. “Life is good.”

She also does a little substitute teaching here and there to test-drive her newly created lessons.

“I have retired,” Artie says, “but the lesson ideas keep coming.”

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