Editor’s note: Hear the new voices of the airport for yourself by listening to the audio story above.
Passengers returning to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for the first time in a while may notice some new voices on the public address system. The airport decided to take a different approach to reminding travelers to report suspicious bags, mind the end of the moving walkways and wear face masks.
Customer service managers held open auditions for airport employees last fall to be the next “Voices of MSP,” as the program is called.
Just before you walk out of one of the many parking ramps at the airport, you’ll likely hear a polite reminder like this: “Thank you for parking at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. You have parked in the gold ramp.”
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But that voice is not from a professional announcer.
Candy Capra is the emergency communications duty supervisor at the Metropolitan Airports Commission. She jumped at the chance to audition.
She says recording the parking reminders — there are more than a dozen — was definitely outside the scope of her normal duties. But Capra said her decade of experience as a 911 dispatcher came in handy.
“We had this small recording studio. And the guy’s like, ‘Do you want to practice?’ And I’m like, ‘No, I just want to go for it,’ ” Capra said.
If you take the short tram ride from the light rail station into Terminal 1, you’ll hear the voice of David Arenas.
“Please hold on, the tram is departing the station.”
Like Capra, Arenas has a key public safety role at the airport. He’s a Transportation Security Administration agent and supervises others over at Terminal 2. Airportgoers may hear a bit of New York in his voice — that’s because Arenas grew up in Queens.
“I can turn it off and on if I want, but I try to keep it off, especially when I’m here,” he said.
Arenas loved listening to Mets baseball announcers on the radio and long dreamt of doing something similar. After his announcements started playing earlier this year, he got a lot of audience feedback, mainly ribbing from his TSA colleagues.
“I just received a blowup of text messages saying, ‘Whose voice is that?‘ and, ‘That’s a great voice,’ and some of them were also serious, saying, ‘That’s an awesome voice, and I’m glad you did get chosen.’ ”
Glen Brown came by the public address gig in a different way. A few years ago he was a cart driver and wheelchair attendant and worked on what was an ultimately successful campaign for a $15 minimum wage at the airport.
“I had given a speech. Someone heard my voice, and they complimented me on my voice. I never knew that I had this voice,” Brown said.
Brown said he remembered that compliment when the casting call came. He has a different job now. And Brown and his new colleagues hear his announcements every day while behind the United Airlines ticket counter: “... All checked and carry-on baggage is subject to search.”
“I have a coworker right now who swears that I sound like Ice-T,” Brown said. “It’s really funny. She’s like, ‘I knew I heard your voice, Glen, it’s Ice-T!’ ”
Also heard in the ticketing area is Radi Prince, a gate agent at Delta Air Lines.
“May I have your attention please? The president’s executive order requires all individuals to wear an acceptable face covering while on MSP airport property.”
Prince says she’d never done any sort of voice work before. She auditioned on a lark and was thrilled to get picked.
“I was very happy. My calling was here. Now I just got to keep it going,” she said. Prince said her stint in the recording booth gave her the confidence to sing at a wedding next month.
New voices annually
Airport customer experience manager Phil Burke said that around 65 employees from across the airport responded to the call for auditions.
A panel winnowed it down to 10.
“We thought that maybe this would be a fun way to get our employees engaged in something that may be different from their day-to-day job, and it certainly proved to be very fruitful in that regard.”
Travelers will hear this current group of announcers through early next year. Because of the strong interest, Burke said the auditions will be an annual event.