Let the great debate begin! Is it necessary for a magician or for that matter any performer to get a college degree as a part of their entertainment / magic education? The short answer is no. The long answer is more involved as it is in any important decision. For me the answer was yes. Don’t misunderstand me I have a lot of friends in the entertainment business who have done just fine without a college education. But a lot of them had street smarts, I was a naive 17 year old coming out of high school. This is why my Magic Journey was different from many of them. My path simply wasn’t as clear to me.
While touring with The Magic of Safety Show I reached another magic moment in my life. You know, magic moments, those seemingly insignificant events that have a large impact on our lives. Looking back from a more mature perspective this event seems a little silly. I spent a week hanging with my high school and now college pal Todd Wickman. Much of this week was spent bar hopping. It wasn’t a drunken stupor but we did have fun.
Before I go any further I should explain that I have a stubborn streak. I know this will come as a great shock to those who know me. One of the only things that I clearly remember about my high school graduation was a speaker telling us that only a small percentage of us would graduate from college. I’m not even sure what the point was in giving this discouraging statistic but it was good enough for me. NOBODY tells me what I can and cannot do! I was determined to get my college degree.
In addition to my stubborn streak I had another major flaw, I saw asking questions as a sign of weakness. I worried to much that others would say, “That’s dumb!” I eventually got over this but we will save that process for another time. Suffice it to say that I didn’t ask enough questions going into college. Also I had yet to learn to work the system. This was definitely affecting my magic education. In magic bouncing ideas off other trusted colleagues is essential. There was another problem, I was immature. I was not only 17 graduating from High School but I was 17 when I entered college. There are many exceptional people who know exactly what they want to do when they leave High School. In fact some of them are my friends, but most 17 and even 18 year old kids need time to figure things out. I am not beating myself up, maturity is process that includes not only physical development but also learning from ones mistakes.
So it was that at the age of 17 I entered UCLA, you know, The University of Colorado between Lawrence and Arapahoe. I must have done something right, I was attending the CU Denver campus. The first semester went okay, the second semester not so much. I was sunk by my lack of effort and the German language. It was a shock! I loved high school German. But college German required a knowledge of sentence structure. Verbs, adverbs, nouns, pronouns and Aiyeeeeee! I wasn’t even good at this in English how was I going to do this in German? My mind wandered and because I was afraid to seek advice I had no idea that I could simply drop the class and not fail. You could not do this in high school. Thus after my first year in college I was suspended for a poor GPA and I dropped out.
This brings me back to my first year touring with The Magic of Safety. I was 21 now and I loved doing this show! I felt like I was finding my calling. I wasn’t getting rich but I was learning how to do a show. The Magic of Safety was a big part of my magic education. There is nothing like performing 2 to 4 shows per day in front of 200 to 500 elementary school age children to make a performer good. There were some schools that the children would eat you alive if they were not entertained. I was also performing in shopping malls, on television and at special events. I was a public representative of The AAA Auto Club in Colorado. I toured the state performing at every elementary school in Colorado Springs, Grand Junction, Pueblo and Fort Collins. While in Fort Collins I looked up my high school friend Todd. That was a life changing experience.
My friend had an apartment with his best friend and Roommate Lee. He and Lee were focused and had a clear goal in mind and he was having the time of his life. At night the 3 of us would go out to dinner and then spend the evening having fun. I returned from this trip and felt like I needed more. As I said I loved the job at AAA but I wasn’t making much money and I was still living with my parents. That needed to change. I made up my mind that I would return to school. This time things were different. From this point on I never received a grade less then a B and I finished my final 6 quarters of college with straight A’s. I had a clear goal in mind and I now had a purpose!
Is it necessary for a performer to go to college? Is it a necessary part of a magic education? No, but upcoming posts I will explain why it worked for me.
This is part 4 in My Magic Journey series. If you want to catch up here are links to the other posts:
I still do school shows for more information check out Library and School Magic Shows.
I am now sharing much of what I have learned in a Lecture for Magicians.
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