f you have ever ridden the T, you would recognize his voice. It’s featured in announcements like “entering Government Center” and “change here for the Green Line” on the subways throughout the T system. It has reassured frantic passengers about everything from the name of the approaching stop to important safety messages since 1995.
And it belongs to Frank Oglesby, the voice of the T.
Oglesby’s father was a bus driver with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) for about 40 years. When there was a job opening for an editorial assistant in the general manager’s office, he told his son about it. Oglesby was well-qualified for the job as a University of Massachusetts graduate with a degree in communication and experience as an editor and writer of University of Massachusetts’ award winning magazine, Drum. Oglesby got the job in November of 1984.
When the general manager left, Oglesby started working in the MBTA communications department. The department was in the process of looking for a new voice for their training videos. The previous actor had a southern accent, and the department wanted someone with a Boston accent for the new announcements. Oglesby grew up in Newton, and had an accent more authentic to Boston. The producer asked Oglesby to read for him, and he liked what he heard.
“I had let him know that I had done college radio,” Oglesby said. “So I was comfortable with a microphone, I wasn’t nervous. And that was the start of it.”
Oglesby first began recording training, funding, and safety videos. These informational videos helped to instruct police and fire departments how to handle MBTA emergencies, such as a fire or a derailment.
In 1994, the MBTA needed commercials for the Red Line with an audio component. The train motor men weren’t making announcements and the T was being fined by the Federal Transit Administration for not complying with requirements.
His first announcements were recorded for the Red Line in 1994. Oglesby was asked to do the recordings for these trains, and he happily agreed. These trains and announcements were later put into service in 1995. Ever since, his announcements have helped keep passengers informed.
“People have told me often that at the end of a long day they will hear my voice, and it’s like it’s soothing,” Oglesby said. “No matter how their day has been, what’s going on. Especially the people who know me.”
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glesby continues to be contracted with the MBTA to record announcements. Oglesby held his position in the MBTA from February 2009 until he retired in August 2016. These announcements are recorded every few months in the executive office of technology in Ashburnham, Mass. During each recording session, Oglesby receives a list of about 100 new announcements to read.
“It’s fun. It’s effortless. It’s a great group over there at the T,” Oglesby said. “I see it as practice and providing a service to people. I have been told that it really is helpful, and I am proud of that.”
Lisa Radosta worked with Oglesby to help coordinate recordings. Radosta is the current deputy director of Administration at the MBTA.
“Oh, Frank is the best,” Radosta said. “He’s a great guy. He’s got such a mild temperament, so he’s easy to work with. And he has just been really flexible with us when we need him to do recordings which has been fantastic. He’s just really a true professional.”
While Oglesby is best known for his announcements, he says his favorite position at the MBTA was as the deputy director of accessible rides at the Office of Transportation. In this position, Oglesby helped to ensure that transportation was accessible and on time for riders with disabilities.
“That’s probably the most rewarding and fulfilling,” Oglesby said. “Because you developed a very close relationship with the constituency. They are very vulnerable about needing service. We did our best to comply and innovate.”
Oglesby said that the interactions between his office and the disabled community allowed them to improve vehicles for efficient, comfortable, and on-time service. The Office of Transportation began taxing and penalizing the companies that provided service for lateness. Because of the efforts of Olgesby, transportation services improved. When Oglesby ran it, trains were running 94 to 97 percent on time.
Heather Hume is a colleague and friend of Oglesby. Hume is the current director of transition at the MBTA.
Hume has been in the room with Oglesby before he begins a recording session, so she’s gotten to see his pre-recording habits first-hand. He does a series of vocal exercises, including one where he recites a list of things without taking a breath.
“Everybody loves Frank. He’s a gentle giant. A very sweet soul,” Hume said. “He was always very amenable and working with anybody—just a very calm presence around the table.”
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nd, as you can imagine, the T can be a very chaotic place to work in. And you know, I love the time that I worked with Frank because there was always that sort of peace and calm among the chaos.”
Hume said that, as a group, they would do 15 minutes of stretching. Oglesby, measuring in at 6 feet 1 and a half inches, can do a vertical split in a suit, which Hume said is a nod to his skill set and his training.
Oglesby held his position in the MBTA from February 2009 until he retired in August 2016.
“I had the reputation of being a really good manager. And I was seen as the go-to person. Like you could come to me. I was fair to everyone,” Oglesby said. “I was just lucky I had all these people working for me who were smarter than I was. I was really good at helping them to navigate that place and to produce, giving them the emotional security, the resources they needed, and the professional advice to succeed.”
Throughout his time at the MBTA, Oglesby had a variety of other voice acting jobs, including officiating Hume’s wedding and played the part of the voice-over announcer in a spoof of a Dos Equis commercial when the editor of CommonWealth Magazine retired.
In the mid-’90s, Oglesby acted in industrial films for Coca-Cola and Pepsi that were used to help train employees. He was in a Bank of America advertising campaign featuring the voice of the Boston transit system interacting with the woman who is the voice of the transit system in New York. Today, he has more time to use his voice as he pleases.
“I am not as busy as I could be,” Oglesby said. “I am picking and choosing what I do because I like to spend time with my family. And I appreciate that the work is out there. It is a much easier thing to be involved in now than it was 20 years ago.”
Technology has improved since Oglesby began working in this industry. Email was not around when he first began in the field—now, he has his own voice recording equipment and can sit, wrapped in a blanket while sending out audition demos.
Despite all of his experience, Oglesby continues to attend classes to improve his voice acting skills. He has been a member of the Screen Actors Guild since 1982. In his training, he has learned to view voice acting as a form of artistry based on which words he chooses to stress.
“I like to learn—I like a challenge,” Oglesby said. “There is more and more room for growth.”
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glesby has been noticed for his voice since he was a kid. Throughout his teen years, he was told he had a good voice, typically by his friends’ mothers. He was stopped at times by strangers in stores and complimented for his voice. When he visited the radio station WILD, DJ Sunny Joe White said, “Boy, you have some pipes,” and suggested that he should go into radio. In his college years, he followed through, but he was discouraged by his college counselor from pursuing this path.
“In college I was told it is a pipe dream and that people of my persuasion don’t succeed in that kind of area and that I should try something else,” Oglesby said. “It inspired me to try to be that person who helped.”
Oglesby chose to retire in August of 2016 after working for the MBTA for 31 and a half years. He continues to record announcements when he is asked to do so by the MBTA. Most recently, he has recorded announcements for the new Red Line that he is eager to hear in person.
“I reached a point where financially I could make more with the pension than the compensation,” he said. “I saw that there was a ceiling there, it wasn’t worth it to commute back and forth that far.
“I came close to going to other jobs and different agencies, and I stopped. I decided to work on what I had wanted to work on forever. I had been in Screen Actors Guild for years. I had been in movies as an extra. I had speaking parts. I was featured in industrial videos, Coca-Cola training videos. And I thought I want to try and do that more. And I can do that now, so why not?”
In retirement, Oglesby says he spends time with his wife, children, and grandchildren. He also spends time training and auditioning for speaking roles in movies and pursues his interest in martial arts.
Oglesby is recognized for his voice from time to time. He has been contacted to record birthday messages for fans through email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. During an interview, he was once asked for an autograph. He once surprised a second grade student who looked up to Oglesby as his idol—Oglesby said it makes the work really rewarding.
“That might be the best part about it,” he said. “That it puts a smile on someone’s face. And I am sure some folks are getting tired of it. But as long as the T wants me to do it, I am happy to do it.”
Featured Image by Maggie DiPatri / Heights Editor
Footage by Mason LaFerney / For The Heights