my true voice


With a passionate interest in outreach, Natalie created The My True Voice Project in partnership with the Extra Mile Education Foundation.  The program teaches pronunciation and poetry to undeserved middle school children to encourage clarity of speech and confidence. It has reached students in the Pittsburgh-Ohio-West Virginia, area with CMU Drama students as mentors. 

Natalie Baker Shirer created and her outreach course, My True a University Elective for Drama students in 2000. For the past 16 years, she has developed an effective way to use mentorship, technical speaking skills and commitment to work with children in grades 5-8 to improve their speaking skills. Traditionally, following an introduction to the purpose and plan of this endeavor, the Drama students meet with Baker Shirer one day/week at specified place and time. Transportation is provided to children’s school site. Drama students work with children according to syllabus and return to place of departure within 2 hours. Talk back with actors follows.

Course description

The My True Voice Program is collaboration between the University, the drama students and the schoolchildren. The Drama students make a one-semester mentoring commitment to teach children effective speech and communication skills as well as a consistent, workable American English Dialect. The children range from fifth to eighth grades. They are taught to listen to poetry, memorize selections for presentation

With a passionate interest in outreach to the underserved population of middle school children in Pittsburgh-Ohio-West Virginia, Natalie developed the My True Voice Project,in partnership with the Extra Mile Education Foundation and her actors from CMU Drama as mentors. It combines the teaching of pronunciation with an exploration of poetry and includes her Online Learning Initiative Course: American English Speech.  

Link to video story on My True Voice in Pittsburgh, 2000

What can actors bring to these students?

Through My True Voice, acting and directing students can bring dramatic arts talents and vocal expertise to children through a mentoring relationship. Using a combination of vocal exercises, acting improvisations and the speaking of poetry, the children will be taught clear, efficient and consistent speech. The individual sounds of American English will be further established by the student’s use of the on-line course Baker Shirer developed for Carnegie Mellon students.. This course provides intelligent tutoring systems, and opportunities for assessment and feedback. There will be a final presentation of poetry spoken by the students’ work at the end of the semester. Student Actors will further strengthen their own speaking skills by working with these children.

Get involved

To learn more about bringing the program to your school or youth group, or to get involved as a student, please contact:

Interested in bringing the MY TRUE VOICE PROGRAM to your city?

the online course is currently offered at both carneige mellon university and at the university of California. contact directly if interested in bringing to your city.