Though I’ve never been a member of the New World Symphony (only subbing in the past), I have had dozens of friends and colleagues who’ve spent time in this exciting and educational South Florida orchestra. Serving as the training orchestra for the United States (sorry, Civic Orchestra of Chicago–you’re just not the same thing), this organization attracts top-notch talent from the United States and beyond, shaping and molding the next generation of musical leaders.
This is also a young orchestra located in the 24 hour party atmosphere of Miami, Florida, and as a result, people tend to work hard and play hard down there. I’ve got reams of stories from my friends and colleagues from their time down there, and while I prefer to share my own tales on this blog, I just can’t resist passing along stories as awesome as this one. Since I wasn’t even remotely connected to the following events, I may well have my ducks out of order. Anyone directly involved in the following shenanigans (and these stories seem to have a way of ending up being read by their protagonist, no matter how much I attempt to disguise their true identity) should feel free to chime in with additional details or corrections.
Pranks and wacky stunts occur in all sorts of different orchestras, but in the right hands they can be elevated to almost an art form of their own. One former member of the New World Symphony was especially gifted in orchestrating stunts of epic proportions. Though people are always thinking about doing the sort of stuff that follows in this story, they rarely follow through with it. This kind of stunt requires planning and discipline, the kind of long term commitment rarely seen. Even if the execution is unsuccessful, it makes for an unforgettable event!
OK–here we go.
The New World Symphony residential facilities include a pool for recreation, a fairly common accouterment in balmy climates like Miami Beach. The aforementioned New World Symphony member (we’ll call him Mr. Pranks) decided that it would be fun to completely fill the pool with inflatable objects. Dozens (and eventually hundreds) of inflatable toys began to pile up, and while they never managed to completely fill the pool, they got pretty darn close.
One of these toys was an inflatable space capsule, a toy version of the kind of vessel that carried Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin into space. Designed for two or three small children to paddle around in, it was a fairly grand toy for a child, but most certainly something designed for kids.
Well, visions of astronauts parachuting into the ocean must have filled Mr. Pranks’ mind. After all, the ocean is an ever-present force in Miami Beach, surrounding the city on all sides. Could this little toy capsule brave the Atlantic?
There was only one way to find out!
Mr. Pranks recruited two adventuresome friends (or maybe two guys who’d just watched a little too much Jackass), and all three of them decided that they had to take this little capsule on an ocean voyage. Though this was a kid’s toy designed for maybe a couple of kids at the most, all three guys decided to cram in at the same time and attempt to cross Biscayne Bay.
They drove to the opposite side of the bay, squeezed into the inflatable capsule, and cast off for the other side, paddling their way into the Atlantic Ocean. Two of these guys later admitted that they couldn’t swim, yet this didn’t deter them in their quest.
Though this kind of ocean voyage would give one pause under any circumstances, this was in the middle of densely populated metro Miami–not exactly a boat-free zone. These guys quickly discovered the hard way that wealthy yacht owners were jerks. Several yachts, spying the little inflatable capsule crammed to capacity with adults, limbs splayed every which way, paddling their way across the bay, decided that it would be amusing to buzz right past the little capsule, churning up a monster wake and making big trouble for a voyage already hanging together by a thread.
In addition to jerky yachts, Mr. Pranks and company had cruise ships to contend with! Imagine the sight from the perspective of folks aboard one of these vessels–a tiny inflatable toy capsule out in open waters with three adults wedged inside. I wonder if any of them got photos? I know that I would have!
The capsule folks soon realized that, while they were indeed performing a stunt that would go down in history as one of the classic New World tales, they were quite likely about to die. Think about it:
- Atlantic Ocean
- inflatable toy space capsule
- three grown men
- cruise ships
- yachts bent on knocking over capsule
The capsule guys must have started calculating the odds of survival in their minds, and realizing that this voyage was likely to go from bad to worse in a hurry, aborted the mission and turned back to shore.
Was this voyage foolhardy? Probably. A couple of the guys privately admitted to being absolutely terrified out there on the water–and for good reason! Still, it’s a great example of the constantly creative mind of the musician and what can happen when a bunch of young artists are placed in one of the nation’s biggest party zones.