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The Johnny Heller 5th Annual Splendiferous Narrator Workshop – The Not Silent Blog 6/4/19

The Johnny Heller 5th Annual Splendiferous Workshop was, as always, splendiferous. Exactly how splendiferous? Let’s start with a few words from everyone’s favorite audio book narrator and adorably scathing satirist, Johnny Heller!

“The Johnny Heller Splendiferous Narrator Workshop was started in 2015 when I was asked – generally – to put together a workshop for actors who were in town for APAC and had a free day before the convention. My idea was to have an event that would appeal to actors at every level of the Audiobook career. I put together a sterling roster of superb coaches – award winning talents– actors and coaches with a real passion to share their adventures and knowledge of storytelling. We have an agenda that I try to stick to, but we’re happy to linger on subjects that seem worth lingering on. We may not answer all the questions, but we want to start the process of investigating issues important to brilliant storytelling. We want to identify the questions we may not even know right now that we need to ask and, together, find the answers. We seek the path to better storytelling from both the artistic and the technical world.

The workshop is, I think, a place where actors can learn more about their craft, hear from the top names in the business, experience new ideas and hopefully emerge with a better understanding of what this wonderful business is all about and how to be better at it.

The most satisfying element of the workshop is watching the coaches work with the talent one-on-one. When a coach and an actor connect – each in their own style – we are treated to a completely magical moment. We see the actor find a new and better way to share the author’s’ truth — to tell the story in a more compelling way. It’s truly transformative for everyone. And I think that’s why the workshop is so popular. We all share as one and thus, form a real community – a real and lasting connection that I believe leads us all to be better storytellers.

I will confess that at this – my fifth annual Splendiferous, I may have tried to tackle too much. I expect it will all work out well in the end and I am very keen on some of the panels this year – the one on Vocal Health with Rachel Coleman, a wonderful NYC vocal therapist, the one featuring some workshop attendees who have found success in various genres and are back to chat about it – Melissa Moran, Greg Tremblay and Eric Martin. There’s also a panel on “Creating Opportunities” -where will be discussing things you can do when you aren’t narrating to keep the career momentum flowing. I already have some great ideas for next year too! I plan on a smaller number of coaches so we can really dive deeply into a few topics and I am considering reviving my original Listeners Lounge. There will always be something for everyone and I have to admit that I am overwhelmed by the support of my industry colleagues who continue to allow me to put these together and to share the craft and the art of storytelling.

Well said, my friend.

It was an honor and a privilege to once again attend The Johnny Heller Splendiferous Audiobook Narrator Workshop a.k.a. JWASH (and yes I’m the only person who uses that acronym because I made it up) at Baruch College in Manhattan. Another cavalcade of audiobook all-stars shared their insights with their usual thoughtfulness and sense of humor.

Back Row: Simon Vance, Steven Jay Cohen, Sean Alan Pratt, Pat Fraley, Paul Alan Ruben, Greg Tremblay, Jo Anna Perrin, Johnny Heller

Front Row: Eric Martin, Simon Prebble, Hillary Huber, Scott Brick, PJ Ochlan, Jeff Kafer, Melissa Moran

The fascinating panel topics ranged from effective narration in various genres to marketing tactics to vocal health.

Paul Alan Ruben is not interrupting Simon Vance

Jeff Kafer, able to both contribute to and detract from the panel at the same time

Johnny asking speech pathologist Rachel Coleman if a frog can actually get stuck in your throat and if so, how do you get him out

A lucky few got the opportunity to be coached up in front of a live (studio?) audience.

PJ Ochlan asking me when I’m going to finish interrupting his coaching session

Pat Fraley putting his student at ease

I would like to thank Johnny, co-producers Jo Anna Perrin & Steven Jay Cohen, and the laudable collection of audiobook experts & good eggs who helped make this event possible.


In 2016, I was struck by every panelist’s sense of humor and how they used said humor to foster a culture of learning, comfort, and joy.

In 2017, they reinforced how difficult the audiobook narration profession is and how years of training, practice, and self-discipline give you only a slight chance at true success.

In 2018, the panelists stressed the importance of connecting with the story, the characters, and the audience by discovering & sharing the author’s truth.

Here in 2019, my big takeaway was how vital it is to reconcile holism with specificity. By that I mean being able to look at the big picture of the audiobook industry and your relationship to it. Everyone going in wants to narrate audiobooks for not just their own personal reasons but based on their perception of the audiobook industry as a whole. It is a large thing, a complex thing with many facets & avenues that you must be able to step back from and understand your relationship to it and every aspect of it.

As to specificity, I always say that vague goals will get you vague results and specific goals will get you specific results. Exactly what kind of audio book narrator do you want to be? Which genres do you wish to master? Do you want to record from home or at remote studios? Do you “need” to join SAG-AFTRA? these and many more questions must be answered to help you put your best foot forward.

If you just starting out as an audio book narrator or are considering becoming one, I heartily recommend you book a coaching session with Johnny Heller to better understand the performance aspect and book a consulting session with Jeff Kafer to better understand the business aspect. They are experts in their field and will serve you well. As a matter of fact, ALL of the coaches who attended are amazing at what they do! Any one of them will take your audio book narration skills to the next level.


Wednesday, June 12th @8:30 PM EST: The Edge Studio Summer Series Webinar ‘Online Casting Sites’. In this special one-time webinar, I’ll talk about the pros and cons of online casting sites in general and Pay-to-Play sites in particular. Click here to sign up!

Thursday, June 13th @8:oo PM EST: The Edge Studio “Business and Money 201” Webinar, ‘Managing Your Money’. In this one-hour webinar, I’ll talk about what to do with your paycheck and how to manage your finances, credit cards, taxes, insurance, and retirement. Click here to sign up!

Thursday, June 20th @8PM EST: Edge Studio Marketing 201 webinar, ‘Brand Yourself’. In this one-hour webinar, I’ll talk about what branding is and how to build your own brand. Click here to sign up!



Tom Dheere is a 20+year veteran of the voice over industry who has narrated thousands of projects for hundreds of clients in over a dozen countries. He is also a voiceover business & marketing consultant known as the VO Strategist and produces the comic book “Agent 1.22”. Subscribe to my weekly blog and the monthly VO Strategist Learnin’ Stuff Notice!


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