WASHINGTON – When recording stars Mariah Carey or Eminem step into the studio, their producer probably doesn’t tell them to “be polite” or “sound more important.”
Then again, pop divas and rappers do not record lines such as, “Doors closing” or, “When boarding, please move to the center of the car.”
Carol Rabel, 58, of Silver Spring, and Angela Stevens, 24, of Frederick, did receive this advice Thursday afternoon as they auditioned to become the new voice of Metro rail.
Rabel and Stevens are two of 10 finalists in the “Doors Closing Voice 2006” contest, a competition to record the familiar messages that direct Metro riders. Other finalists were from the District and Virginia.
More than 1,000 people submitted audition tapes this month before judges narrowed the field. Metro wants a fresh voice to improve safety on rail cars, said Cathy Abato, Metro spokeswoman.
The 10 finalists recorded new messages at a professional studio near Dupont Circle under the guidance of Dan Marinaccio, a creative director with LMNO Advertising. Each finalist sat behind a glass studio wall and read safety tips while technicians and media watched.
Rabel didn’t sweat it in the booth. She has done voice-over recordings before and hosted classical music programs on public radio. People have told Rabel she has a knack for voice work ever since she was a boisterous’ cheerleader in high school. The Metro contest ads caught her eye, she said, simply because it looked like fun.
“I thought, “Gee, what would it be like to be that voice?'” she said.
Stevens is no stranger to the microphone either. She commutes to Rockville at 3 each morning to report for Clear Channel’s Total Traffic Network. Stevens used to ride the Metro everyday as a Takoma Park native and student at Columbia Union College.
A friend showed Stevens an e-mail about the “Doors Closing” contest the day before the deadline, so she recorded an audition CD at work and sent it via overnight mail.
“I said, ‘Dude, how cool would it be to be the voice of Metro?'” she said. “You’re just kind of this ambiguous voice.”
Judges will review the finalists’ new recordings and announce the winner Jan. 31. A new voice is part of a wider Metro effort to direct commuters with extra signs and safety guidance. Doors on rail cars do not open up like elevator doors when something is jammed, Abato said, and Metro fears that passengers do not heed the current recording.
“We wanted something fresh that would make our customers take a second look,” she said. “Sometimes you hear something so often it becomes background noise.”
Commuters will probably tilt an ear to the new, perky messages unveiled Thursday.
One begins, “Jeepers, Batman! Did you see that person just shove their briefcase in the doors?” It then explains how crowded doors delay trains and make passengers late.
Another message said it is unlikely riders will ever scale the Washington Monument or see an alligator in the Potomac River, but it’s “a sure bet” that blocking the doors will cause delays.
Despite long lines and nerves, the mood was light as finalists giggled in the hot seat behind the mic. After all, recording is what radio people do all the time, Rabel said.
“People in this profession are natural performers.”