Quotes from Shana Pennington-Baird

Vocal Health

“If you wake up and your voice feels tired or scratchy, that’s fairly common. With a little rest, it will recover. But if that scratchiness… the feeling that you need to clear your throat all the time continues for more than two weeks, that’s a sign to go see a qualified otolaryngologist right away. It’s amazing how quickly major damage can occur.”

“Some performers come to us with major emotional issues after they have been diagnosed with vocal health issues. It’s scary to hear that your voice may never sound the same. Even following successful rehabilitation, many performers feel post traumatic stress that may keep them from returning to performing. I injured my voice at 24. I left a show. I was told to tell no one or I would never work again. Nonsense. With the exception of the year I took off to rest and rehabilitate my voice through speech therapy, I have continued my work as a professional actor, singer, audiobook narrator and voice coach. I understand how it feels and that’s why I do what I do. I connect with others who need a cheerleader.”


“A beginner misses all the good stuff in the script, and doesn’t know it. You know you’re ready to be a professional when you can hear you are terrible and can fix it, without the help of a director.”

“When a student asks me if they have what it takes to be a voice actor, here is my response. Do you have time to train like an Olympic athlete? With elite coaches? Will you learn how to edit all your sound files by yourself on a computer and how to be an exceptionally organized freelance business person? Do you have time to commit to the art of acting and become exceptionally good? Then, yes. You have what it takes. Just, don’t quit your day job and then start.”

“Voice over requires the depth of Shakespeare and the subtlety of film. And all of the acting required for both. Acting is not just for certain parts of the VO world like animation or video games. A great eLearning script should be embedded with just the right emotional content.”

“We never do a demo reel if a talent is not ready, just because they have the money,” Pennington-Baird says. “We will do it when the talent has the skills necessary.”

Singing (adults and children)

“When an adult comes to us and wants to learn how to sing, we welcome them. And often, we find out that someone said just the wrong thing to them at just the right time somewhere in their past — and that’s why they either never tried to sing or stopped singing. My job to emotionally support them, get them past that negative person from their past, and then help them find their voice.”

“We rarely teach children under 12 to sing in private coaching. Instead, we recommend that children under 12 take piano lessons and sing in a school or community choir, since learning to read music will be a vital skill as they learn to sing. When a parent comes in with their seven-year old child and has videos they want me to watch from a past performance they recorded, we are concerned that the child is trying to sound like an adult and is pushing the delicate vocal cords of their small body far past what is healthy. This kind of hard pushing can permanently damage their child’s voice. We are gentle with children and parents, but honest that they need to take it easy and train correctly.”

“When we are approached for audition coaching and prep, often even the professional actor will wait a bit too long to come see us. We recommend coming in to see a coach about 4-6 weeks prior to auditions. A great audition takes about 4-6 weeks to prepare. Coming in to see an audition coach a week before the audition is cramming for a test the next morning.”

“We have seen an uptick in youth and young adults wanting a bit of training before auditioning at the regional auditions for television shows — the Voice or America’s Got Talent. Our goal it to help in any way we can, which includes talking about the differences between television auditions and working in professional music or theatre. They are two completely different things. We are proud that students that came to us for those quick TV auditions and then stayed for years after that first audition. Now they study at American Academy of Dramatic Arts and other theatre/music schools across the country.”

Public Speaking

“Great public speaking includes relaxation, which at first seems counterintuitive. The more relaxed we are, while keeping up the passion about what we are discussing, the more engaging we are.”

“Public speaking training is theatre training. We teach individuals how to enter the room, how to interact with their audience, how to steal focus back during interruptions (this means sharp physical movement or changing volume while talking to shift where the audience is looking). We may change the words, but it’s all theatre training.”

“Fear of public speaking is one of the greatest fears, even higher than the fear of death. We include in our public speaking training, meditations that help our students find the physical source of stress and then use it as an aid in their talk. This visualization can help in just one session and the resulting calm from the meditations are lasting.”

“Toastmasters and other groups help with practicing public speaking. We find that learning about vocal health, how to breathe correctly, how to watch harsh vowel attacks, how to change vocal energy and most importantly how to incorporate great vocal hygiene creates great speakers. Vocal health is often skipped in trainings for public speaking. Vocal health is the place where we start.”

Artificial Intelligence Voices

“Artificial intelligence voices are part of our lives and they are here to stay. Will it affect the voiceover industry? Yes. I think the majority of interactive voice recording — your bank, phone trees, etc– have already gone to the AI voices and will continue to do so. I think some eLearning will be narrated by AI voices. Some of it will be okay, but most will sound a little lifeless. However, audiobooks, commercials, television promotions for football season — those require the passion and emotion that a trained voiceover talent brings to the performance. Artificial Intelligence will have to evolve to genuine emotion and intent to be believable in those roles. And when that happens, we’re all in trouble.”