Do You Need To
Go To College To Become a Magician?
This is a question
beginners often ask. Is a college education essential to
your success as a professional magician?
The answer is: Yes and
no. Let me explain.
To succeed in
professional magic you need not only performance skills,
but also business skills. College is a great place to
acquire both. You can take classes in theater, voice,
movement, dance, acting, as well as business, marketing,
public relations and communications.
My undergraduate degree
is in theater, and I recommend that route for others
beginning their professional magic career. While an
undergraduate I had the opportunity to take classes and work
on a number of different productions, gaining skills in
technical theater and performing.
Furthermore, I designed
my own independent study second field in the performance
of magic. I put together my first act and took it
around college coffeehouses and community centers,
getting experience in front of audiences as well as
receiving college credit. I wouldn’t trade that
experience for anything.
Because of contacts I made
at college, immediately after graduation I
worked for two years as stage manager for the New York
State Theater Institute, receiving valuable technical
theater training in the real world. I toured Europe
with a company of 55 people and two tons of equipment,
working in legitimate theaters. (Putting together a
simple bus and truck magic tour today doesn't intimidate
me in the least.)
Although I gained important
technical skills, I wasn't performing magic. I needed
With a theater degree in
hand, I walked into a 3000-seat summer theater near my
home a few years later and convinced the owner to hire
me as Director of Marketing for a season. That's where
I learned about the real world of show business,
marketing shows like Sammy Davis, Jr., Lou Rawls,
Roberta Flack, Paul Anka, Air Supply and America.
We had Eddie Murphy on his
first tour after Saturday Night Live. I set up press
conferences, television interviews - even drove Jay Leno
around town for radio station interviews. I would never
have gotten that job without my undergraduate degree in
But I still wasn't making
my living as a magician. I left after one season and
began building my business. It took several years, but
I eventually built a successful business performing
primarily in schools. I was having trouble breaking
into the corporate marketplace, however, so I went back
to school to study
communications in graduate school.
I remember people asking
me what I was going to do with my master’s degree in
communications. My response was always, “Hang it on the
wall next to my undergraduate degree and get on with my
It wasn’t the degree
that was important; it was the knowledge and skills that
I wanted. Having a graduate education gave me
credibility in the corporate world. Most of the
business people I deal with on a daily basis have
graduate educations, and I can interact with them on
their level. Furthermore, I use the knowledge gained
in graduate school as the foundation for building my
current speaking programs, the latest path my career has
Was it necessary for me
to go to college to acquire the skills necessary to
succeed in this business? Absolutely! I wouldn't be
where I am today without my college education. Is it
possible to succeed in magic without going to college?
Of course, but you will need to need to learn about
performance, technical theater and marketing somewhere.
College is a great place to start.
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