Trying Out for the Voice of D.C.'s Metro System

At a recording studio in the Washington, D.C., area, contestants audition to be the new voice of the city's subway system. Can you say "the doors are opening?" How about "please stand back?"

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BLOCK: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

(Soundbite of computerized voice)

BLOCK: That's a familiar voice to many thousands of Washington, D.C. commuters and tourists, perhaps too familiar. Transit officials here in the nation's capital say the current voice on the subway system has worn out. It's been played for so long, since 1996, that riders no longer really hear it and they sure don't heed it. So Metro officials staged a search for the next doors closing voice. Someone who's timbre might make a busy commuter take notice.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Anyone, professional or amateur, over the age of 21 was eligible to compete, and 1,200 people did. Sending tapes and CDs from as far away as Seattle. The 10 finalists were in Washington for a showdown of sorts yesterday. We followed three of them, two traffic reporters are a TV news producer. Angela Stevens was the first to audition.

Ms. ANGELA STEVENS (Candidate for Voice of Metro): Dude, how cool would it be to be the voice of Metro? What would it be like to be on the train and be, like, I'm the voice of Metro.

(Soundbite of audition)

Ms. STEVENS: I mean, your mind blanks out when you're staring at the microphone and just whatever you have inside of you, that's pretty much what comes out.

(Soundbite of audition)

Ms. STEVENS: I'm too nice. I don't know how to do an authoritative voice. I just don't.

(Soundbite of audition)

Ms. STEVENS: They basically said in the contest that they're just looking for a normal person. And so I'm just really tapping into that normal person who's taking the Metro everyday during rush hour.

(Soundbite of audition)

Mr. JOHN GARCIA (Candidate for Voice of Metro): I did it on a lark. If I don't win, I don't win.

(Soundbite of audition)

Mr. GARCIA: As a regular rider, one of the things that absolutely drives me insane is when people think that they can still stay in the doorway and won't be blocking anybody getting on or off the train, and it just drives me nuts.

(Soundbite of audition)

Mr. GARCIA: What's going to be harder is if I win and I have to hear myself everyday on the Metro.

(Soundbite of audition)

Ms. SARAH FRASER(ph) (Candidate for Voice of Metro): The persona was a sort of more relaxed Metro voice. And I think that the reason that I'm one of the top 10 is that my demo tape was sort of riddled with train noises as I began. So I think the intro was something like, choo, choo. (laughter) Well, you know, like, so, I think it's, you know, I mean, it's got to be, you got to have fun with it.

(Soundbite of audition)

Ms. FRASER: Well, you know, the worst part is you think, you hear that voice, and you're like, how obnoxious. So now I'm thinking, if I win this, just all the millions who travelers in the morning are going to be thinking, how obnoxious, you know?

(Soundbite of audition)

NORRIS: Metro officials will name the new voice of Washington's Metro next Thursday. The winner gets no money at all, no paycheck, no royalties, not even free subway rides, just bragging rights over and over and over again.

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