The Future Stars Of Magic
By Joe Diamond - Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Magic is growing in so many great ways. In just the two years I’ve run the youth program, I’ve seen so much growth and forward motion in the young people in our art.
A little over a decade ago, I was very briefly in the magic documentary Make Believe. This was arguably the documentary that kicked off the new wave of magic documentaries. I’m in it for less than two minutes. I was helping my best friend Bill Cook with his competition act. I was, for a lack of a better word, his director.
If you haven’t seen the film, it’s a look into the now defunct World Magic Seminar’s Teen Competition. It shows the highs, the lows, the winning, and losing. There are several times that tears are shed by the teens due to the pressures put on them by their mentors, peers, and themselves. One contestant cries because a billiard ball drops to the stage briefly before the young performer quickly recovers. Afterward through the tears, the contestant rambles saying how they have “NEVER dropped a billiard ball on stage.” It’s truly heartbreaking to see this young person being so hard on themselves, and unable to deal with and process the minor failure.
After being backstage at that competition for two years, I saw the stress, worry, and pressure put on my fellow young people, and decided then and there that one competition win from a different convention the previous year was good for me, and decided to just work on my craft without the pressure of a competition.
Fast forward to the first year I took on the job of Director of the Youth Program of Magi-Fest. We put on a last minute Session/Show on the final night. There was a young man named Gabriel who had to follow Shawn Farquar. He placed a prediction down, had a deck of cards shuffled, had the cards dealt, then suddenly and honestly said, “Oh, this trick didn’t work. Well, thank you for letting perform for you all,” and left the stage.
No tears, no apologies, no questioning himself.
The crowd cheered, and gave him a standing ovation. It was one of the highlights of the night.
I’ve often heard former youth magic competition organizers say things like, “Competition brings out the best in these young people,” and maybe that was the case at one point. In my experience, that’s simply not the case anymore for our artform. Gabriel had the best in him already, and he didn’t need a competition act to bring it out of him. Heck, he didn’t even need the trick to go right, and the best was still brought out of him.
The environment of magic is changing. Ten short years ago, I saw the room literally part for a former youth contest winner. He performed, everyone politely clapped for this future star, and he left. That performer is no longer in magic. I see young people in our program sessioning with each other, and living legends in our industry. I saw FISM winners watch intently, and offer clear, useful praise and advice to a 13 year old who was attending her first convention.
The lack of competition has nurtured this new generation to be better. These youth scholars are more proficient technically, they read more, and can process their skill sets properly. I see kids buying books, and knowing page numbers of sleights in books I thought I had studied intently. These kids are studying harder. Sure, some of them are asking how to get on TV, or have a viral hit, or create a best selling trick, but we all wanted to do that when we were teenagers. It’s a part of the growing up process.
I promise you, these kids really ARE the future stars in our industry. I’ve got my eye on them. I know at least one will be a huge TV star, and their lead creative consultant, will be a fellow youth scholar in our program. Several of them will create best selling effects that will become the new classics, and others will write the next great theory books on our craft.
And they will do it without the need or desire of a trophy.
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