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New classical music a greatest hit at MSP

You know you're doing something right when a principal viola player with the Minnesota Orchestra praises your music selection.

But that's just what happened recently when violist Sam Bergman visited MSP Airport (MSP) and was surprised to hear a relatively obscure Beethoven selection.

"Most airports will hit you with the Opus 18s – generic, expected," Bergman wrote on Twitter. "Some hipster 'ports will play Opus 131 to show you they know what they're doing. Only MSP slides into that sweet middle quartet and just luxuriates there."

That would be Beethoven's String Quartet No. 10 in E Flat Major, Opus 74, composed in 1809 and performed by the Emerson Quartet, one of the world's premier chamber music ensembles.

While MSP Airport has played classical music in its public spaces (including restrooms) for decades, it switched its music provider to Mood Media in mid-2022 and selected pieces with the guidance of Krin McMillen, an accomplished musician herself, who is also the performing arts coordinator with Arts@MSP, and Phil Burke, assistant director of Customer Experience for the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), which owns and operates MSP.

"With the new interface we can curate the music on our end," explained Krin. "We immediately noticed a difference from the Muzak-like elevator music that had been playing. We selected really amazing, high quality, classical recordings in all sorts of genres – from Baroque to Romantic."

The response was immediate from several travelers. Phil shared examples at the January meeting of the Customer Service Action Committee (CSAC), including this one:

"I love the classical music! It puts me at ease and causes a feeling of calm and peace. Most airports have rock music which so irritates me. Thank you for making MSP the classiest airport in the country."

Improving the customer experience, of course, is the whole focus of Arts@MSP, the Airport Foundation MSP and the Customer Experience Department at the MAC. Customers definitely appreciate the music upgrade, and there's a financial payback as well, as Katlyn Schenck, a customer program specialist with the MAC, explained.

According to the latest J.D. Power survey of mega airports, "delighted" passengers spent $47 on average at airports – more than twice the $23 "disappointed" passengers spent.

"So pump up that music, Phil and Krin, and let's make them even more delighted," said Katlyn during the January CSAC meeting.