Success in Magic

Do You Need To Go To College To Become a Magician?

by Jim Snack

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 marketing skills. 

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 theater.

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 life!”

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 taken.

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. 

© Jim Snack, All Rights Reserved

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