Aaron Fisher on the Magic Teacher

Discuss the latest feature articles in Genii.

Postby Lisa Cousins » 11/26/02 09:48 AM

I thought that Aaron Fisher raised an interesting point about the desirability of having a real magic teacher, as opposed to the "cut and paste" way that most people learn magic in the information age. He says "We've all got the books, but without the teachers, we don't have the decoder ring."

I was curious about the experiences of other Forum members regarding this. Did you learn through a teacher, or are you putting it all together on your own?
Lisa Cousins
 
Posts: 429
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Hollywood

Postby Matthew Field » 11/26/02 01:34 PM

Lisa --
I was a pretty know-it-all guy when I approached Richard Kaufman about 15 years ago and discussed his becoming my teacher. I had been self-studying card magic, seriously, for about eight years prior to that, and had been interested in magic since I was a little kid. I was about 42 years old -- not a kid.
The first thing I learned from him was how little I knew.
The most important thing I learned from him was how to read a magic book.
What I had hoped to learn from him was the Pass. It took nearly two years before he would teach it to me.
It is, in all endeavors, important to have a teacher to evaluate and steer the student. In spiritual study it is the guru. In magical study it is the master.
The two years I spent studying with Richard were the most valuable years I invested in magic.

Matt Field
User avatar
Matthew Field
 
Posts: 2454
Joined: 01/18/08 01:00 PM
Location: Hastings, England, UK

Postby Charlie Chang » 11/26/02 04:28 PM

Lisa,

Teachers are invaluable if you really want to learn any art form. They give you the map and point you in the right direction. If you choose to you can decide to go another way but your choice will be informed.

A teacher gives you a perspective. Aspirations. Respect.

The most important thing is this:

Choose your teacher VERY carefully. In the land of the blind, one eye is king. Just because someone seems to know more than you doesn't mean they are suitable. Good teachers impart more than mere methods...
Charlie Chang
 
Posts: 163
Joined: 01/18/08 01:00 PM
Location: Los Angeles

Postby Lance Pierce » 11/26/02 04:40 PM

Just as often as not (in fact, perhaps far more often than not), the student doesn't choose the teacher...it's the teacher who chooses the student. Most of those I've met who are acknowledged as the masters in our field are indeed actively -- albeit quietly -- looking for people with whom they can share...sincere, receptive, and open students who are ready to learn and BE students.

L-
User avatar
Lance Pierce
 
Posts: 397
Joined: 02/19/08 01:00 PM
Location: Oklahoma City

Postby Charlie Chang » 11/26/02 04:45 PM

That said, I am sure you will also agree that there are even more Monday morning quarterbacks looking to coach the unwary.

If you know what I mean....
Charlie Chang
 
Posts: 163
Joined: 01/18/08 01:00 PM
Location: Los Angeles

Postby Lance Pierce » 11/26/02 04:48 PM

I do, and I also keep in mind that for every false prophet, there's a handful of false disciples.

Sincerity is the key...

Cheers,

Lance
User avatar
Lance Pierce
 
Posts: 397
Joined: 02/19/08 01:00 PM
Location: Oklahoma City

Postby Guest » 11/26/02 06:46 PM

I don't think there is any doubt that a good teacher makes a huge difference. For me, it has allowed me to advance way beyond what I ever hoped for. I meet with my teacher at least once a week. Besides that, he helps to decide which books to buy and helps fine tune performances as well as provide insights that you just can't get from books or tapes. for the first year or so, it was very structured, based largely on Card College, and after that I come up with routines I like and he helps me learn and brainstorm them.

In this area, he's THE teacher for many amatuer and pro magicians.
Guest
 

Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/26/02 07:17 PM

Mark, who's your teacher?
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine
User avatar
Richard Kaufman
 
Posts: 20454
Joined: 07/18/01 12:00 PM
Location: Washington DC

Postby Guest » 11/26/02 09:30 PM

My teacher is Tyler Erickson. He is not well known outside the midwest, He consistently gets awards in this area and holds both private and group classes, and also is active in the local SYM chapter. although he has lectured as far away as Dallas,(or was it Houston?) not many outside Minnesota know of him other than Paul Cummins, and several other 'big' names. His web page is at

www.tylerteach.com.

Tyler was a student of Joe Fortier (Spelling?) and Al Schneider. I've also spent some limited quality time with Al on some stuff, as Al lives very close to me, we used to meet every friday at a magic store at the Mall of America until 9/11/01 made it too scary to be at such a big mall so we disolved those meetings, usually two or three people besides Al would attend weekly.

Tyler has two videos that are sold by BeholdLearning, called "A new angle on Magic". One on cards which specializes on "The worms-eye" pass, which is a bottom card cover dribble pass, sort of... Designed for table hopping where you are above or equal to the eye level of the spectator. Also some material on psychology, presentation, and top changes. He also has a tape mostly based on coins of which much is beyond my skill level at this point.

His knowlege and expertise on cards rivals just about anyone I can think of, and I've seen a lot of good magicians.

He has been of great help to my fascination with gambling moves, such as false shuffles and deals. Another person I rely on quite a bit is an ex-vegas dealer that really has the moves down pat and has given me quite a bit of help in routining my deals and shuffles so they look legal, but I can't reveal his name. It got on his good-guy list after he saw my endless chain routine, which I learned from Whit Haydn at a convention.
Guest
 

Postby John Pezzullo » 11/27/02 02:29 AM

What was the name of Dai Vernon's teacher?
What was the name of Ross Bertram's teacher?
What was the name of Slydini's teacher?
What was the name of Jimmy Grippo's teacher?
John Pezzullo
 
Posts: 455
Joined: 03/16/08 05:19 AM

Postby Lisa Cousins » 11/27/02 10:30 AM

John, your point reminds me of a great (though possibly apocryphal) story about Mozart. A young man wrote to Mozart asking advice on how to write a symphony, and Mozart replied that a symphony is a very complex musical form, and that he would advise a beginner to start with something more basic. When the young man protested that Mozart had written symphonies at an even earlier age, Mozart replied:

"I never asked how."
Lisa Cousins
 
Posts: 429
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Hollywood

Postby Bill Duncan » 11/27/02 04:40 PM

Originally posted by John Pezzullo:
What was the name of Dai Vernon's teacher?
The ones I can think of off the top of my head?
Nate Leipzig
Max Malini
Alan "Bill" Kennedy

Everyone has a teacher.
Bill Duncan
 
Posts: 1356
Joined: 03/13/08 11:33 PM

Postby Bob Coyne » 11/27/02 06:33 PM

The ones I can think of off the top of my head?
Nate Leipzig
Max Malini
Alan "Bill" Kennedy

Everyone has a teacher.
Vernon was a student of Erdnase, the book, not the person. The people above were Vernon's equals, performers he admired and studied objectively (not studied with). These weren't teacher/student relationships in the sense being asked about, where the teacher evaluates and guides the student. So I think, Vernon would be a good example of someone who is self-taught.

I take exception to sweeping statements like "It is, in all endeavors, important to have a teacher to evaluate and steer the student." Says who?
Bob Coyne
 
Posts: 242
Joined: 01/26/08 01:00 PM
Location: Montclair, NJ

Postby Bill Duncan » 11/27/02 07:16 PM

Originally posted by Bob Coyne:
Vernon was a student of Erdnase, the book, not the person.
Bob,
I can only say that it's not possible to be a student of the book without being a student of the man (whomever he was).

While Vernon was a contemporary of the men cited I wasn't there at the time so I can't state with certainty that he was always their peer. But even if he wasn't, certainly he became their equal in many ways. Does that mean he wasn't also their student? Having read a fair amount of what Vernon had to say about them I doubt he'd deny them that place.

My opinion:
If I can't learn from my peers it's because I'm a poor student. Even the dull and ignorant have lessons to teach if you have the ablity to learn them and the lessons don't always announce themselves.
Bill Duncan
 
Posts: 1356
Joined: 03/13/08 11:33 PM

Postby Lance Pierce » 11/27/02 07:22 PM

Originally posted by Bill Duncan:
Even the dull and ignorant have lessons to teach if you have the ablity to learn them and the lessons don't always announce themselves.
"When the student is ready, the teacher appears."

...not because the teacher suddenly appeared out of nowhere, but because we're constantly surrounded by teachers, and when we're ready to learn from them, the lessons are there, waiting.

L-
User avatar
Lance Pierce
 
Posts: 397
Joined: 02/19/08 01:00 PM
Location: Oklahoma City

Postby Guest » 11/27/02 07:25 PM

This is an interesting thread. So who is known for teaching? Who teaches, but isn't really known for it? For instance, I NEVER would have imagined our own RK gave lessons. And Perhaps Matt or Richard can expand on the proper way to read a magic book. Guys?
Guest
 

Postby Max Maven » 11/27/02 07:34 PM

Bob Coyne writes:

"I take exception to sweeping statements like 'It is, in all endeavors, important to have a teacher to evaluate and steer the student.'"

I agree. However, I'll differ with another part of that same post where, in response to the statement that Vernon had teachers, including Leipzig, Malini and Kennedy, Coyne writes:

"[They] were Vernon's equals, performers he admired and studied objectively (not studied with). These weren't teacher/student relationships in the sense being asked about, where the teacher evaluates and guides the student. So I think, Vernon would be a good example of someone who is self-taught."

Not quite so. Looking back at the pantheon of magic, clearly Dai Vernon now has equal status to Leipzig and Malini. (In fact, I'd accord him higher status.) However, at the time of their interaction, they were by no means peers. Leipzig and Malini were over two decades older than Vernon; when Vernon moved to New York in 1916, he was barely 21 years old, while Leipzig and Malini were seasoned veterans who had been "stars" for over a dozen years.

(In this context, Kennedy is moot, as he was not a magician, met Vernon only once in 1932, taught him a requested technique, and that was that -- no "steering" involved.)

The Professor's early development was largely via books and observation. To a great extent, I would agree that he fit the definition of being "self-taught." But not entirely. When he arrived in New York, several older magicians gave him private guidance; a notable example would be Dr. James Elliott.

So, while it is fair to say that The Professor did not have a formal student/teacher relationship with a specific guide, it would be incorrect to conclude that he evolved without external guidance.

I do not think that having an actual teacher is essential to one's artistic development. During my formative years, most of my "teachers" were dead people via the printed page, and when I did start to have student/teacher relationships with more advanced magicians, those were not formal arrangements.

However, you might be surprised to find out just how much evaluation and steering can be received from the printed page.

None of the above is meant to be argumentative; just trying to provide some clarification.
Max Maven
 
Posts: 350
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Hollywood, CA

Postby Bob Coyne » 11/27/02 09:26 PM

Thanks, Max, for the informative and nuanced account of Vernon's development and the question of teaching and artistic guidance in general.

One thing that sticks in my mind from Vernon's various writings (mostly from his old Genii column) is how he learned by observing. He must have been a very keen observer, coupled with a creative/active mind. I remember, in particular, one column where he described watching some actor's hands and how natural they were. I thought that was a deep and perceptive observation...he knew where/how to look to find naturalness or the lack of it. And I think his reading (or strong misreading in Harold Bloom's sense) of Erdnase is similar. He's breaking new ground as he learns, precisely because he's (for the most part) teaching himself.
Anyway, Vernon's columns were a great inspiration to me as a kid learning magic. So I agree with your point about how one can find the guidance one needs from the printed page.
Bob Coyne
 
Posts: 242
Joined: 01/26/08 01:00 PM
Location: Montclair, NJ

Postby Brian Marks » 11/27/02 09:44 PM

Brando, De Niro, Pachino and Duval studied method acting from Lee Strausberg, Howard Clurgman, Stella Adler and Sanford Meisner. They were master teachers whos effects are still felt in acting. Unfortanely nothing like his really exists in magic. Well Bob Fitch is doing a good job, I guess.
Brian Marks
 
Posts: 918
Joined: 01/30/08 01:00 PM
Location: Nyack, NY

Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/27/02 09:59 PM

I have been, for many years, pretty much a "teacher" in our field rather than a performer. Most of my teaching is not done live, but through text and illustrations. However, as Max points out, even though the teaching is not done in person, that doesn't mean teaching is not going on. Just that the method of communication is different. In some cases, the printed page makes a better teacher.
I was very fortunate to grow up in New York City, where I met Sol Stone, Gene Maze, and Ken Krenzel when I was about 14. Shortly thereafter I also met Harry Lorayne and Derek Dingle. All of these gentlemen were my teachers. How could I have learned to do the Andrus Panoramic Shift if not for Krenzel patiently teaching me when I was 15? How could I have learned the Pass if Derek didn't do it for me 10,000 times and let me lie on the floor and watch his hands from underneath?
But, one of my most influential "teachers" is someone I never met: Cliff Green. In 1972, when I was 14, I asked Tony Spina to sell me a book that had truly difficult card material, and he sold me Green's "Professional Card Magic." It inspired me, and I learned almost every routine in the book and can still do them. Cliff Green taught me a lot, even from the grave.
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine
User avatar
Richard Kaufman
 
Posts: 20454
Joined: 07/18/01 12:00 PM
Location: Washington DC

Postby Lance Pierce » 11/27/02 11:45 PM

While we can certainly learn from past and present masters through the printed word, we should also acknowledge that it takes a certain kind of person to learn well from that medium. Not everyone seems to be able to.

There's absolutely no replacement for the great books, but neither is there for a wise and caring teacher. Those of us who were lucky enough to have one can see why Aaron Fisher said what he did.

Cheers,

Lance
User avatar
Lance Pierce
 
Posts: 397
Joined: 02/19/08 01:00 PM
Location: Oklahoma City

Postby Terry » 11/28/02 07:56 AM

One thing that sticks in my mind from Vernon's various writings (mostly from his old
Genii column) is how he learned by observing. He must have been a very keen observer, coupled with a creative/active mind.
It was probably the result of his earlier training as an artist/drafter. Don't forget the intricate detail of the silhoulettes(?) he freehand cut.
Terry
 
Posts: 1243
Joined: 01/18/08 01:00 PM
Location: Kentucky

Postby Matthew Field » 11/28/02 12:19 PM

Originally posted by Bob Coyne (and agreed to by Max Maven):
I take exception to sweeping statements like "It is, in all endeavors, important to have a teacher to evaluate and steer the student." Says who?
Says me.

The problem with having no teacher is that it is easy to misinterpret the printed word and learn something wrong.

I learned the sagacity of this studying Buddhism. It is easy, in this particular pursuit, to devolve into solipsism if there is no one to guide you in this endeavor.

The problem with having no teacher is that you then have no expert feedback. You have no guidance as to direction, no one to steer you along the path.

You might be a genius like Max or Vernon or Mozart and not need a teacher. Maybe, too, you can learn to drive a car with a book and a big open space to practice in. Maybe.

But, while I might qualify my original blanket statement, I still believe in the importance of having a teacher. For the rest of us mortals, that is.

Matt Field
User avatar
Matthew Field
 
Posts: 2454
Joined: 01/18/08 01:00 PM
Location: Hastings, England, UK

Postby sleightly » 11/28/02 04:48 PM

Learning something wrong can be the genesis of something new! By applying our own perspective and adapting material to fit our physical and presentational strengths, the old becomes new. While a teacher can be an aid (specifically in motivational terms), occasionally a teacher can be a hindrance to the personal development of a performer.

It requires very special skills to teach. One must put forth a balanced diet of forced specific learning (geared to the students likes and, more specifically, aptitude) such as core technique and repertoire, coupled with creative play to open the student to trusting their own instincts and growth needs.

Ultimately the student must trust the teacher to provide the framework that will propel them to a place where they either surpass or leave behind the specific teacher.

In life we have many teachers, but only if we allow ourselves to learn from them.
sleightly
 
Posts: 217
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: New Hampshire

Postby Guest » 11/29/02 10:36 AM

Matt and Richard,
My post wasn't sarcastic, I'd really like to know more about "how to read a magic book". I never thought it was an issue, but Matt's mentioning it, has made me curious.
Guest
 

Postby Guest » 11/29/02 01:20 PM

I think that the need for a teacher is becoming more and more important these days, as the truly useful and seminal ideas in magic are being buried under a ton of books and videos. If you want to find the pony, you might need a guide to help sort through the refuse.

When I was beginning in magic in the sixties, many magic shops hid their wares instead of displaying them in their counters. One often had to know what to ask for, if you wanted the good stuff.

Magicians were more secretive, and the books available were much fewer, and I think, by percentage better.

Now that the hugely expanded market has encouraged more magicians to publish, not necessarily with much regard to quality, experience or originality, it is even more difficult for the neophyte to find the information that he needs to become a proficient performer.

The classic books on magic spent time on theory and presentation, something sorely lacking in the video medium which has been such a powerful force in the creation of new magicians.

It is not that video is bad for magic, I think it is a wonderful teaching tool. It would have saved most of us from spending way too much time learning things that eventually turned out not to be worthwhile.

On the otherhand, beginners are being sold by advertising on much magic that is wrong-headed, impractical, or pedestrian.

The need for a teacher to help the student find his way through the tangled undergrowth is even more urgent today.

The good news is that the real work is once again hidden--under the pile of crap.

Magazine reviews and lectures can be a big help to the beginner in navigating his way through the junk, but since there are so many different approaches to magic, and each reviewer has his own peculiar viewpoints, the need for a teacher that can provide a consistant reference point and philosophy of magic so that the student can form a sense of taste and style becomes more critical.

Sure a serious student can learn and grow on his own by studying everything out there and trying things out in performance. Experience is the best teacher. But it is also the most frustrating and the slowest way to success.
Guest
 

Postby Matthew Field » 11/29/02 01:57 PM

Originally posted by John Blaze:
I'd really like to know more about "how to read a magic book".
This can't be explained on the Forum. It is personalized to each magician. Richard might not even be aware that he taught it to me!

What I learned was that effects which I had passed by because they did not "read" well can be blockbusters. Effects I liked might not have been the most effective ones for me to perform.

Matt Field
User avatar
Matthew Field
 
Posts: 2454
Joined: 01/18/08 01:00 PM
Location: Hastings, England, UK

Postby Roy McIlwee » 11/29/02 02:21 PM

Dai Vernon in his column "The Vernon Touch" dated January 1987 (Volume 50 No 7) answers a letter he received from a novice asking him for some advice on starting out in magic. His entire column is loaded with great advice and a few of the books that he would recommend the novice to study. Vernon does not mention a teacher anywhere in the letter. Anyone just starting out in magic should get a copy of this letter as it is very informative as well as entertaining. Roy McIlwee, Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Roy McIlwee
 
Posts: 47
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Scranton, Pa.

Postby Brian Marks » 11/29/02 09:26 PM

Just because Dai Vernon does't suggest a teacher in sme column doesn't mean one isn't necessary. While not having read the column, I am sure he never said anything against them either. As Whit pointed out there is a load of crap out there, well more than in 1987. Someone who can guide a beginer with fundamental skills makes learning magic that much easier and effective.
Brian Marks
 
Posts: 918
Joined: 01/30/08 01:00 PM
Location: Nyack, NY

Postby Bob Coyne » 11/30/02 05:55 AM

There are a lot of crap teachers out there too, so the problem isn't teacher vs non-teacher but crap vs non-crap. It really comes down to either luck (happening on a good book or teacher) or, more importantly, the student's ability to distinguish crap on their own and look elsewhere.

Also there's a big difference between a teacher being necessary (as you say) versus a teacher being useful. There are plenty of people who've learned in an ad hoc, "cut and paste" manner, without a real magic teacher. So while I agree a good teacher can be very useful, it surely isn't necessary.

Anyway, to add something constructive, I think a very important element in learning (which I don't think has been mentioned in this thread) is to see lots of magicians perform. You quickly get a sense of what you like, what works and what doesn't, and what the written descriptions in books actually look like. The same principle applies to most domains...a good writer will do lots of reading, a good musician has listened to lots of music, etc.
Bob Coyne
 
Posts: 242
Joined: 01/26/08 01:00 PM
Location: Montclair, NJ

Postby Guest » 11/30/02 02:33 PM

Yep; always wanted a teacher. It is indeed difficult on one's own, as Matt Field and Rich Kaufman so very, very aptly described (eg: I NEVER learned --though tried--Andrus Panaoramic Shift. don't even know if it is particularly good except he was the one demonstrating it to me.) Slydini for me was NOT a good teacher, hough I loved the person and the wonderful experience Others have done wonders by him). So, who teaches in Media,Pa just half way between Phia and Wilmington, Del? Now that I have the time, though not quite the youth, where is the teacher?
Guest
 

Postby Guest » 12/01/02 08:26 AM

I've spoken in depth with a man that does a fair amount of lecturing and deals. His take is that most now want self working materials. The second he mentions a double or Elmsley people lose interest. Having a good teacher would be great for everyone, but there's something to be said for trying to struggle through an effect you don't quite understand in a book.
Guest
 

Postby Max Maven » 12/01/02 02:21 PM

Originally posted by Tom G:
I've spoken in depth with a man that does a fair amount of lecturing and deals. His take is that most now want self working materials.
Which makes a fairly strong case for the difference between "lecturing and deals" and actual teaching...
Max Maven
 
Posts: 350
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Hollywood, CA

Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 12/01/02 03:29 PM

If a trick works itself, what is the role, if any, of the agent? Is he or she merely the closest bystander?

Lecturing is to teaching as a one-night-stand is to a love affair...

...er...well...

...sorta.

Onward...
Jon Racherbaumer
 
Posts: 816
Joined: 01/22/08 01:00 PM
Location: New Orleans

Postby Geno Munari » 12/01/02 08:23 PM

Teacher verses Mentor is coming to mind. More and more are we seeing the various schools, McBride, Fitch etc.

Many great performers had no teaching and no mentors. Many had great teachers. Many had great mentors. Many had neither.

Everything seems to equal itself.

So is it true, "You can take the boy out of the country, but can you take the country out of the boy?"
Geno Munari
 
Posts: 624
Joined: 01/30/08 01:00 PM
Location: Las Vegas/Del Mar, CA

Postby Guest » 12/01/02 08:55 PM

Gene,
Nice summary; all possibilities exist.
How would you differentiate "mentor" vs "teacher"?. I think you have a nice dichotomy in mind.
Marty Kaplan
Guest
 

Postby Geno Munari » 12/02/02 04:40 AM

How would you differentiate "mentor" vs "teacher"?.
In this sense I associate the meaning of mentor as a senior sponsor or supporter, which may not be a formal teacher as such. In my comparison, Jimmy Grippo was my mentor. His method was not to be a formal teacher as Vernon was. Yet he supported my learning, but never gave any magic lessons,for money, to anyone.
Geno Munari
 
Posts: 624
Joined: 01/30/08 01:00 PM
Location: Las Vegas/Del Mar, CA

Postby mike cookman » 12/04/02 11:29 AM

I've got lots of magic teachers; my book shelves are full of them. I learned to play guitar the same way. :)
mike cookman
 
Posts: 164
Joined: 12/08/08 03:48 PM

Postby Brian Marks » 12/04/02 12:02 PM

Books aren't the same as teachers. If they were we wouldn't really have this thread.
Brian Marks
 
Posts: 918
Joined: 01/30/08 01:00 PM
Location: Nyack, NY

Postby Guest » 12/04/02 12:23 PM

Nor would we need universities.
Guest
 

Next

Return to Feature Articles