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Metro Launches a Star Search

Sandy Carroll, whose voice has announced door closings since 1996, will be replaced by
Sandy Carroll, whose voice has announced door closings since 1996, will be replaced by "a fresh voice," say Metro officials. The audition is open to anyone 21 or older. (By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)

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By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Think about it. Your voice, echoing through the cavernous Metro stations, pouring from every train, ringing in the heads of hundreds of thousands of daily subway riders. You -- that's right, you! -- the voice of Doors Closing 2006.

Worried that commuters have turned a deaf ear to the "doors closing" recording that warns when a train is about to pull out of a station, Metro officials plan to record a new message this year and are searching for new talent. The agency is holding a contest to choose the next voice of Metro, and anyone -- professional or amateur -- is welcome to compete.

"We want a fresh voice and a new sound," said Lisa Farbstein, a spokeswoman for the transit system.

Those 21 and older are eligible to audition by submitting an audio recording to Metro by Jan. 20. Contestants are asked to submit six recordings using three tones on each of two messages described on Metro's Web site.

The three tones that would-be stars are asked to use are polite, authoritative and serious. Nothing jokey, nothing warm and fuzzy, Farbstein said.

That's the opposite of the current announcements, which were recorded in 1996 by Sandy Carroll, a District resident with a honeyed Southern inflection who made the recording as a favor for a friend who worked at Metro.

A sound engineer "brought his laptop computer to my apartment and put this microphone in my face, and he said, 'Say doors opening, doors closing ,' " Carroll said in a 2001 interview. "And I said it and he played it back. The next thing I knew, we were riding on the train, and there was my voice."

Ellen O'Brien, resident voice and text consultant for the Shakespeare Theatre, said candidates should remember the first rule of speech: clarity. "You want to be able to understand the messages, and the trick with that is to let it sound human," she said. While recording the message in a polite voice, contestants should smile to themselves, she said. "It's an old tip, but it does work," she said.

Metro officials are expecting a large number of contestants to try to knock Carroll from her perch. "We really think this is something people are excited about in a very positive sort of way," Farbstein said. "It's certainly not up to 'American Idol' proportions, but we expect a lot of people are going to be sending in recordings."

Contestants can submit recordings on cassette tape or compact disc. A list of rules is posted on Metro's Web site, http://www.metroopensdoors.com/ , and is also available by calling 202-962-2554.

A group of Metro officials -- not Paula, Simon or Randy -- will select 10 finalists based on vocal quality, versatility, enunciation and elocution. The finalists will be asked to make a recording in a professional sound studio in late January. A panel of outside experts in marketing, elocution and advertising will select the winner, whose name will be announced in February, Farbstein said.

The winner doesn't get a professional recording contract, a concert tour or even a free ride on Metro to hear the recording. "Just bragging rights" until the next voice of Metro is found, Farbstein said.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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