One of the contestants, Ben Wade, has a fascinating history. As a youth, he won an international trumpet competition, and he played with the New York Metropolitan Opera and two symphonies by age 17. In 1996, he took a little kayaking trip from Mexico to Columbia...over 6,000 miles, a world record-breaking distance.
After his kayaking trip, he became a college soccer coach. His cumulative record (at various schools) is 147-14-13. These days Ben lives in Missouri, coaching at Southwest Baptist University. However, he also spends a lot of time in Susanville, California. Ben coached in Susanville before moving to Missouri.
He also started a symphony in Susanville. The population of Susanville was under 15,000 in the 2000 census. The symphony has incredible community support, and since moving to Missouri, Ben has continued to travel back to Susanville to conduct. He even composed a symphony, which was debuted by the Susanville Symphony in 2005.
Since the symphony's debut in 2002, the tympani player has been retired Army General Dick Bendix. Dick is now 81 and continues to play, in addition to serving on the symphony's board. He and his wife Leah Faye are very close to Ben, acting somewhat as surrogate parents when he is in town. Lucky him--they are pretty great parents. I should know, since Leah Faye is The Engineer's mother, and Dick is his stepfather.
I've only met Ben once, but have heard my parents-in-law sing his praises for years. I haven't watched much Survivor since the second season, but I'll be glued to the TV this year!