Magic for the older gentleman (or lady!)
February 15, 2021
No, I’m not talking about performing magic for the hard of hearing, or someone who can’t see because of cataracts. But instead, I am talking about the kind of magic that someone of an older generation could perform.
I’ve been teaching magic for most of my career over the last ten years. However, it has been very intermittent and merely something to include as an additional income stream to subsidise my performing.
Since the beginning of last year, though, teaching magic has become my primary focus. Admittedly it was unintentional, but more and more clients seem to find there way to me for lessons in magic rather than performances. Who am I to argue with which clients are the ones paying for my dinner!?
What has been of interest to me, though, is that the far majority of my students have been children. I have learnt the hard way that children under the age of 9 are not going to be learning magic from me any time soon. That may well be my fault, but I’ll hide behind the excuse of Zoom not being the best medium for learning a physical skill, thank you very much!
And that is despite having a green screen, two camera angles, lighting, microphones, and a fleshed-out curriculum to follow when teaching. Any younger, and it just doesn’t seem to click. (Shameless plug of my showreels HERE)
Barriers to Entry
Aside from my poultry attempt at protecting my ego, I think the reason is the same reason there isn’t more magic in the world as it is.
Learning magic is difficult. Well. Sort of. As Teller, of Penn and Teller, once said in an interview, “Magic is the only skill that you can buy” (I’m paraphrasing, but it is a great interview you can watch HERE). However, that kind of performance is rarely seen as magic per se. Yes, you can perform the effect that was promised on the box, but it never has the oomph that the performance you saw the salesmen do moments before you parted with your hard-earned cash.
Performing magic, good magic, requires so much more than a fancy prop. Every great performer of magic has been unique. None of them bought a trick and performed it moments later. They spent a lifetime learning to perform magic. I am sure they all started with a deck of cards or some of those silly props. But only to start with!
Magicians are performers first and foremost. Our job is to entertain, to confuse, to amaze, to bewilder. Sometimes all of the above and more. The problem is, it takes time to be able to do that with any single effect. Let alone an entire routine.
A great magician needs many of the following skills:
• Comfort in front of an audience
• Technical skill
• Appropriate attire
• Dress sense
• Unique tricks/stylings
• Psychological understanding
• Social and situational awareness
And that is just when looking at the performing side of things. Should you manage to get to grips with all of that, create a character and start performing, and that's after all the rehearsing to make the performance flow well of course, then there is everything that goes into being an entrepreneur as well!
You must manage your finances, plan, and handle your marketing, business contracts, legal issues, insurance, and so much more.
Now, most people don’t make it anywhere near this stage. Which is perfectly acceptable, some of the best and most talented magicians I have ever met are hobbyist magicians.
But all of this combines to make a too high barrier for entry to anyone remotely interested in magic. So, for better or worse, many potential students are scared away from ever learning magic. It is a strange path to follow, and without the right spark, it may die out before it ever gets started.
Students of Magic
Then we are left to wonder how or why anyone starts to learn magic at all.
Well, like any skill, we must accept that at the beginning, we will suck. And sucking at something is the first step to being kind of good at something. Therefore, one of the most significant factors is a desire to learn, of course, but also the time to learn it.
This is why, at least based on my best guess, many students are younger than eighteen, or older than fifty. I have had almost nobody in between those two age ranges. I’m sure there are many other reasons, and I hope to look into them, with your help of course, and with a bit of self-exploration!
Teaching children, or young adults, magic, is a massive task in and of itself. It can be daunting and frustrating. However, they have the advantage of “growing into” the roles they create for themselves. Any audience is always more forgiving of a child attempting a new skill, as we hope to fan the flames of their interest.
Should someone a bit older start learning a new skill, we may not be as forgiving or as forthcoming with our time. Such is our focus on the new and the youth. But I am getting a bit off track here.
Someone who is a bit older looking to learn magic is more likely to be set in their ways. But they also face one of the biggest problems a magician could face. Arthritis.
So how can you perform magic if you have arthritis? Well, it turns out, as I have discovered, it is not as much of an issue as you might think. Of course, it will make some magic effects almost impossible to pull off, and I’m looking at you, you ridiculous move monkey mechanics!
Of course, there are a whole host of self-working magic tricks that they could learn, many magicians have taught plenty of such tricks. But some people, strangely enough, want a variety of effects on their belt. So allow me to introduce you to my friends:
Mentalism (you can read more about it and the other types of magic HERE)
That alone is one of the largest fields of magic that doesn’t require any sleight work. I mean, some of it does, but shush, don’t tell anyone!
Then you have some of these incredible effects that can be done with minimal dexterity:
(You can get a discount on these and many other magic tricks at the Merchant of Magic if you use my discount code "MAX")
And surprisingly, quite a few more! Care to let me know what any of them are, would be great to add even more to the list!
So whoever you are, whatever age you are, you can learn magic because magic is about a lot more than just tricky sleight of hand. It is a daunting skill, no doubt, but given that I am currently teaching it to a 75-year-old man, and he is getting pretty good, I think you might have what it takes to learn as well.
And don’t forget, I didn’t start learning magic until I was twenty, and now look at me! Apparently, I’m quite good at what I do. Though, that is definitely a biased view of a very subjective idea. Just don’t let your idea of being a magician get stopped because you believe you are too late to the game. You aren’t. In fact, most likely, you are right on time.
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