Nice that TSA is trying to make people’s “rape-ish” pat-down experiences more cheerful:
Travelers passing through Los Angeles International Airport are finding that security officers have more than a scan or pat-down for them this holiday season. They’re offering musical entertainment, too. The LAX TSA Choir, a group of 17 singers and musicians, all of them officers of the Transportation Security Administration, have been surprising passengers with performances of holiday music and other tunes in the midst of one of the nation’s busiest airports.
“Wow, it’s crazy,” said Miriam Kositchek of Santa Monica, Calif., who was clutching her ticket and passport for a flight to London when the LAX TSA Choir broke into song at the Bradley International Terminal of Los Angeles International Airport Wednesday afternoon. “In this climate, where travel is so scrutinized and security is so tight, it’s nice,” she said. “It adds some lightheartedness to travel.”
Airports around the country have scheduled musical performances during this time of heavy holiday travel to try to brighten the experience for harried travelers. The choir here is one of just two — the other is at the airport in Austin — made up entirely of TSA workers, said TSA spokesman Greg Soule in Washington.
Members of the LAX TSA Choir are volunteers who practice and perform on their time off, says musical director and keyboardist Raul Matute, who is a security manager at LAX. The group has been performing since 2003 and also serenades passengers with patriotic music on Veterans Day, Memorial Day and other occasions. “It’s to promote the human spirit and morale,” said Matute, who played in the San Francisco band Cold Blood in the 1960s.
Ernie Perez, a security supervisor and tenor, led the choir in a Ray Charles-like version of Georgia on My Mind and Feliz Navidad. “We’ve been taking a lot of heat for what we do” at TSA, said Perez, referring to body scanners and aggressive pat-downs of travelers. “We just put a new face on TSA — I think a positive face.” At the start of Wednesday’s performance, volunteers from other airport jobs performed an eight-minute dance routine on the floor of the terminal, stunning passengers and enticing some to dance along to recorded songs such as Surfin’ USA, Rock Around the Clock and Stayin’ Alive.
As the choir worked through an hour-long set list that included America the Beautiful, God Bless the U.S.A. and Battle Hymn of the Republic, as well as Frosty the Snowman and other seasonal chestnuts, traveler Edwin Tagoe recorded the scene with a video camera. He called the performance uplifting. “I felt it when they started singing the carols,” said Tagoe, who was on his way to Ghana. “I’m going to put it on my Facebook page.”
Tis the season.