An Interview with Mary Baker
by Judy Steidl
JS: What caught your interest in Voice Acting?
MB: After many happy years as an elementary school teacher, I found myself not quite so happy and decided to look for another outlet for my talents. My favorite part of teaching has always been reading out loud from a great children's book, so I started to investigate the world of audiobook narration. Little did I know that there was this whole wonderful world of Voiceover that was just sitting there waiting for me to explore it! I can get paid to do this? Then sign me up! I was instantly hooked.
JS: What was your experience taking classes, etc. with Penny & Jim?
MB: Had I not found Penny & Jim and The VoiceActing Academy in my initial searching for something, anything to do with audiobook narration, I don't know that I'd be sitting here today doing this interview. My experience with these two from my initial 8 week class, smaller workshops, through the preparation and eventual recording of my demos has all been just wonderful. I am so appreciative for their expertise, guidance, and honesty. My demos that I recorded and mixed with Jim are top notch. Even my agent was fooled into thinking the tracks were real work I had done!
JS: Who are the other people you've studied under?
MB: Living in Southern California, I have the great advantage of being right in the heart of the business. As a result I have had the great opportunity to train with some of the best (including Penny & Jim - of course!). I have studied extensively with the amazing, hilarious Pat Fraley (you can't just say his name without putting an adjective or two in front.) Pat offers classes a few times a year on areas of voiceover that are otherwise very difficult to get trained in such as audiobook narration and ADR and voice replacement. If you ever have the chance to learn from Pat - DO IT! I have also taken classes over the past few years from Dan Balestrero, Bob Bergen, and Ron Michaelson all of which were great learning experiences. I've definitely learned that the key to moving forward in this business is to keep learning and growing as a talent. Never think that you've had enough training or practice - there is no such thing. Even when I've taken a class that made me realize "Wow, I don't think I like this area of voice over", I have still come away with new tricks, new connections, and a greater sense of who I am as a voice talent.
JS: What has been your highlight VO experience?
MB: Wow, there have been quite a few - signing with my agents Nanci Washburn and David Lipton right after completing my demos with Jim was pretty great. It really helped me feel like I was doing the right thing and - hey, other people like me, too! This business is so anonymous - unless you are a movie star and people recognize your voice, you don't get a whole lot of recognition for what you do. So, when you do get to hear yourself on the radio or on TV, well that is just pretty darn cool! I have an infomercial I recorded through my agent a few months ago that is on TV all the time. My neighbor is always telling me "I heard you again on TV last night" (I don't think she sleeps very much...). But the day I walked in and turned on the TV and actually heard my voice - well, that was seriously cool.
JS: In contrast, what was a tough experience that taught you a lot?
MB: Once again, there have been quite a number of those as well. Here are the lessons I have learned: 1) This business is not for the feint of heart. If you are too sensitive and need constant recognition for what you do, then get out. 2) It takes a really long time to truly get going - training, demos, training, audition after audition. Then more training and updating your demos and a million more auditions. I am still getting going...will I ever get "there"? Maybe there is no "there", just a lot of nice little stops along the way. 3) There are a lot of people out there looking to take advantage of you. At first, I was willing to practically give my voice away just to get work. But you can only do that for so long if you are trying to make this an occupation and not just a fun little hobby. You need to have standards and stick to them. I think there are a lot of "talent" out there right now who are giving away their services and it has truly hurt the business. Voice seekers have realized that they can get cheap talent and therefore expect all of us to stoop down to their level. Sorry guys, cheap voice over is like a cheap wine - sure it might get the job done, but did it taste good going down?
JS: Describe 1-2 things that have helped you the most?
MB: When I was first getting started, I actually took time off from teaching so I could really focus on my new path. This is a tough business to get into if you are also holding down a "real job". I'm really glad I had the opportunity to take that time and really dive in. Otherwise, I might still be just thinking about it instead of doing it. Also, I have to emphasize again - classes, classes, classes! Each one I have taken has opened a new door and I always come away a better, more prepared talent.
JS: Anything else?
MB: Yes! I forgot to give my most important piece of advice - Be nice! To everyone you deal with - teachers, fellow students, engineers, directors - if you are pleasant to work with, your chances of getting hired again are so much better. No one wants to work with a prima-donna or a slacker, so be a professional. If you go to a studio to record or even to a class - get cleaned up! Sure I can sit here at home and record in my p.j's (love that part of it, by the way), but if I'm going to be with real people I need to show them that I've got my act together.
JS: Is VO easy?
MB: No - it's a lot of hard work and a lot of preparation.
JS: Is it for everyone with a "great voice"?
MB: No - I've taken classes with so many different people who were told they had a great voice, but if you can't act, can't listen, and can't take direction - then, please, keep your day job!
JS: Is it totally, absolutely fun?
MB: Oh yeah!
To learn more about Mary, visit her web site at