what makes a great magician

Gene Urban… What Makes A Great Magician?

Books/DVD’s, Practice/Performance and Wonderful Mentors

People often ask me how I learned magic and what it takes to be a great magician. Although others have given me great accolades, I still consider myself but a student of magic. I still have much to learn and hope to keep that pursuit moving forward for several more decades.

There are elements that help make a great magician. Below I offer 3 of what I believe are the most important:

  • Books: I began learning magic before YouTube and DVD’s. Books were the way of the wizard back then. My library has about 1800 books, lecture notes and assorted writings. I’d love to say I’ve explored them all yet they are a work in progress. I believe one of the great attractions to our craft is the volumes of information that can take several lifetimes to consume and hopefully master.
  • Practice and Performance: Like any pursuit, practice is key. In addition to practice, live presentations are paramount to the performance artist.
  • Mentor and Teachers: I believe an important key to being a strong magician comes from mentors and teachers. They offer nuance and refinements that come through actual performance. Like others, I have my list. Some I spent much time and others only through lectures and books. Below are a few of the most important to me. If you see a highlighted link then I have a page with additional notes and often videos of them performing. I hope you enjoy as I have.

Dai Vernon: No list of teachers would be valid without Dai Vernon noted. Known lovingly at “The Professor”, Vernon contributed more to the art of close up magic than any other. He held court at the Magic Castle for many years where his critique of performers and their technique is legendary.

Bob Fitch: Bob is an actor and magician. My friend Bob Sheets told me I just had to attend a “Fitch Workshop.” I am very glad I did. Bob worked on Broadway and offered a week long, all day and most of the night workshop for magicians. It was both massively educational and a bit brutal. I’d put Fitch’s training near or at the top of my magical education. Learn more about this amazing teacher here. 

Eddie Tullock: Known at the King of Trade Show Magic, Eddie taught me the ropes of this niche industry that became my trade for nearly 15 years. Read more about this special man and watch him in action here.

Tim Conover: Tim left this plane in 2011, yet he is remembered often by many of the world’s top magicians. I had the honor of working with him on the trade show circuit during the 1990’s. He was beyond passionate as he worked on new ideas and routines. His performance style was infectious and charming. He took time to critique my work. His honesty was tough to take a times, yet he simply wanted to help me add value to the craft of magic. Click here for more about Tim Conover and see him at work. 

Kenton Knepper: Kenton is best known for his Wonder Words series. It set a new standard for how we verbally communicate ideas and thoughts during a performance. We have been close friends for over 2 decades and created a show, Dining with Wizards, that gained national fame with performances for Microsoft and others. He taught me much about stagecraft and creativity and has been a wonderful friend for over 30 years.

Slydini: Much like Dai Vernon, Slydini was one of magic’s true masters. Although I never met him, his books and performance videos were core reading. He was a master of misdirection and elegant performance. Here is more information about Slydini and a number of performance videos. 

Banachek: AKA Steve Shaw: Banachek is a remarkable performer, yet I believe his ability to create true “moments of magic” is his greatest gift. I met him in the early 1990’s and his take on mentalism shaped my approach and thinking. You’ll find his touch on many performers work including Penn and Teller and David Blaine. Check him out on YouTube.

JC Wagner: I started my magic career performing behind the bar in San Diego, CA. There was a great bar magician in the area that taught me a quite a bit about bar magic. We ended up being room mates and running our own magic themed bar in the Phoenix area. We had some great times and he shared so much knowledge. Here is a classic bit of magic from behind the bar performed by one of the greats… JC Wagner.

Bob Sheets: Bob is another bar magician from San Diego. He worked the trade show circuit too and we grew to be good freinds. Bob is the magician who pushed me to go to the Bob Fitch workshop that changed my magic life forever.

Shawn Eric: Unless you are a fan of street and festival magic you may not know this fine performer. He and I worked at James Place, a magic themed bar and restaurant in Scottsdale AZ as well as dozens of corporate events and private parties. He is a master of coin and card work and has helped me over the years to refine my technique and stay motivated. Here is a video from a performance at the Magic Castle. 

Brother Paul: Paul was part of the magic brain trust at James Place. His knowledge of magic is pretty darn amazing. He was amazing people at the Magic Castle when I was just starting out. He taught me a lot about character and delving deep into an effect to find nuance and that spark that is magic. He is a great comedy performer and masterful sailboat captain. If you get to Fort Meyers, you should hire him to show you the sea. Here is a bit from his act… The Stupid Bean Trick

This page is a work in progress as many others have taught me much. They will be added over time.

Gene Urban… The Magic Guy



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