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Topic: Finding a Mentor
Message: Posted by: Ravenspur (Jul 21, 2019 05:03PM)
Sorry if I'm posting too much these days, but I ran into a rather accomplished magician yesterday. He's in his 70s, has worked internationally. He invited me over to talk magic.

It's premature to say he could be my mentor, but the idea struck me, how many people here have had or been a mentor? What is involved in the mentor relationship? Lessons? Payment?
Message: Posted by: TomB (Jul 21, 2019 08:34PM)
I would think the magician is making money and you are helping him and get paid as an assistant.

Otherwise, it would depend if you became friends or if it was strictly business. Friends would mean you pay in food and drinks. If its business, then I would pay him the same amount you would pay for music lessons. Those lessons should have a syllabus so you know upfront what the lessons will be and how often.
Message: Posted by: funsway (Jul 22, 2019 11:34AM)
Yes, there must be a clear understanding up front of what is expected for both parties. A mentor is not a teacher nor a practice buddy. (opinion).
My early mentors had a common rule: "work on one effect until it is mastered or abandoned for cause." I have generally followed that also in my mentoring efforts.

I have had many more casual "supportive discussion" activities that some would consider mentoring.

I have also done a "show analysis" function for several budding professionals. I observed their show three times:
1) I watch the audience and not the stage. I made time notations as to awe reactions, boredom, distractions, etc.
2) I attempted to enjoy the show as a lay spectator while focusing on audience engagement techniques.
3) I observed the show technically and made time notations of specific activities.

Later at a long, personal meeting I would present the coordinated findings, focusing on differences between what the performer thought was happening and that of the audience.
Each performer made adjustments to their routine order, planned pauses and their over-reaction or need for applause.
Each paid me a bonus beyond my contracted fee. Mentoring? I am not sure.

I offer these thoughts to indicate that it is essential to agree on what mentoring means, and for a mentor to avoid activities better done by a trainer, voice coach, prop designer or other.
Message: Posted by: Ravenspur (Jul 22, 2019 03:20PM)
I'm fishing for information. Knowing what factors could come into play is helpful.
Message: Posted by: danaruns (Jul 23, 2019 11:17AM)
I've had a number of mentors. Every relationship was different. I don't have any secrets, I can only tell you my experiences and hope you can find something useful in them. Sorry for how long this is. You might just want to scroll past.

I consider all my mentors friends, but the relationships did not begin that way.

My first mentor was Mark Wilson. It was very much a formal teacher/student relationship at first. I didn't haul his equipment to gigs, I was never onstage or backstage help. He just taught me hard technique and performance principles. Later, I helped him teach classes at the Magic Castle. And later than that we became friends. Our families became close, we'd celebrate birthdays together, and today it's strictly a friendship with him, Nani Darnell, and Greg Wilson (whom I refer to as my brother from another mother and father).

His son, Greg Wilson, is a dear, close friend and sometimes mentor, simply because he has decades in the business that I lack, and he knows more about the business side than I ever will. Our magic couldn't be more different from one another, but what I learn from him is great business stuff. Sometimes I can pick his brain about how to solve a problem or find a particular method. We are mostly friends, though. Friendships can also be wonderful mentorships.

I considered Jeff McBride a mentor, but with him it was strictly a "pay to play" teacher/student relationship, exchanging money for knowledge, a very transactional thing. Yeah, I took one master class from him at his Mystery School. But most of it was one-on-one teaching where I'd fly to Vegas and spend entire days with him doing magic, and I paid him for each day we spent together. He gave me an entire close-up show, parlor show, and stage show. It was a wonderful jumping off point. I can still come to Jeff informally, and he remains extremely helpful whenever I need a tip or resource. I consider him and Abbi casual friends. I think they consider me one.

Through Jeff, I got to know Eugene Burger. I met Eugene at Jeff's master class. I never gave Eugene a penny, he just enveloped me in his spirit, and gave me an amazing perspective on magic and life. I got from him stuff no one else had to offer. He taught me to give the audience more of myself, my true self. He would always pick up the phone, and he had a way of making me feel like I was the most important person in the room to him, which is something I hear from lots of people, so it was just his way. With him, all I had to do was ask for help, and we were off to the races. He was extremely generous with this knowledge and time. It was amazing and eye-opening, and I'm sad he's gone. A guy like that is a great mentor to have, and if you can find one appreciate him.

I just stalked Pop Haydn until he agreed to help me. LOL! I just showed up to his shows, attended the "School for Scoundrels" put on by him, Bob Sheets, and Chef Anton, and just pestered him until he surrendered and agreed to help me. :D I'd go over to his house and we would talk a lot and do a little magic, and talk about life and philosophy, and I'd love on his amazing dog, and got to know his wonderful wife Nancy, and just generally stalked the heck out of him. Ha! I wonder if he realized he had a stalker. :D I'd bring medicine for his elderly dog, I'd pay him money, I'd give him anything or do anything in the world for him. He's a wonderful man. A little hard to get to know, which is where stalking comes in handy! :) Pop taught me the stuff he actually performs in his shows. Few mentors will do that! But more important, we spent hours talking about the philosophy of magic, about working from character, about psychology, about the advantages of difficult volunteers, about being the wolf, about having a digital footprint, and about creating original routines from standard props. I drank it up like it was life. A unique mentorship. To this day he's my favorite magician, and a beautiful man. I hope he knows how much I value him.

There are still others I consider casual mentors. John Carney, Teller, Robert Ramirez, Luna Shimada, Rob Zabrecky, Phil Van Tee, and a dozen others, mostly from the Magic Castle. These are magicians with whom I spent a little or a lot of time, and took from them the things they did best or specific things I was looking for. Even though these relationships were/are more casual, since I learn from them I consider them mentors. They may not even realize I think of them as mentors. The relationships could have been either short or ongoing, but each gave me something important that I carry today in my magic. And to me, that's what makes them mentors. This kind of mentor is all about being in a social environment with magicians, getting to know people, workshopping with them, picking brains, being friends, watching their process, and many times just absorbing things informally.

I'd be super careful and picky about who you want to mentor you. Find consummate pros, people who really know. Sometimes the worst mentor is the guy at the local S.A.M. or I.B.M. meeting who is quick to tell you how much they know and who volunteers help or critique. Run from those guys. The best mentors are quiet. They don't rush out to help you. You have to come to them.

If you go hang with your "prominent magician" and get something out of it, just tell him you value his help and ask him if he will mentor you. It's best if you can articulate why you want to learn from that guy in particular, what makes him special to you. Maybe he will want you to pay for formal lessons, maybe you'll just hang out. Many great magicians love paying it forward to people who care enough to learn. For some, they enjoy the ego satisfaction from teaching. Many others are all about the benjamins. Just ask. He'll tell you what he wants. It's a sad truth that many of the best magicians struggle financially. I always offer to pay people for help whether they ask for it or not, because it's money I have and knowledge I lack, where with many great magicians it's the other way around. Or maybe he won't want anything ongoing, in which case just take from him what he offers and express your gratitude. Be ready to gracefully accept "no" as an answer. As you can tell from my varied things above, different guys take different approaches, and mentorships can be fleeting or long term. But I do think mentors are extremely important.

Good luck!
Message: Posted by: Ravenspur (Jul 23, 2019 05:08PM)
Thanks, Dana! This is good advice and information. Exactly what I was looking for.

I belong to the local S.A.M. Assembly. No one has done anything other than be friendly. One guy is the father of one of my former high school students who asked me to hang out and do magic.

The guy I just met isn't in our local Assembly as far as I know. For a while, he partnered with our one guy who is our one full-time, professional magician, but the guy I just met is older and, I think, slowing down. He's still performing, but I think he's basically retired. Based on his house, I don't think he's poor, but I can afford some lessons.

I'll mention his name at our S.A.M. summer picnic on Saturday and continue to suss him out.
Message: Posted by: Dick Oslund (Jul 26, 2019 10:44AM)
Hi Ravenspur!

Over the past 65 years, I've had the opportunity to mentor young guys like the late Bob McAllister, the late Chuck Windley, and the late Doug Henning. They all became successful professionals.

A few young guys are avid amateurs.

A number of older men have thanked me for advice and encouragement. (Dana and I have had a few "differences of opinion", but, I agree with her thoughts, above.

I'm not "looking for a job!!!", but, I'll offer a few thoughts. I managed Scout Camps for 13 summers, and served on camp staffs for 39 seasons. I planned, organized and operated a very successful training course for young adult leaders, in outdoor skills (like knot tying, using woods tools, etc. Part of the course was a presentation on how to share those skills, with scouts.

As with the young magician "wannabees", I always emphasized that I could not TEACH them anything! I could only demonstrate, advise, and encourage, them to learn what they needed to know and do. My philosophy was that "learning is an active 'process'" and SOPHOCLES had said a few millenia ago, that, "One learns by doing the thing!" I used the E.D.G.E. "system". ("Explain, Demonstrate, Guide, Enable")

I used the same philosophy in my mentoring. I suggested what books to read. (I recommended Tarbell for PRINCIPLES, not the patter, and other authors like Fitzkee, Maskelynne & Devant, et al, We discussed what they had learned.

Nemo dat quod non habet! (No one gives what he does not have!) In looking for a mentor, seek someone who has been successful!
Message: Posted by: danaruns (Jul 26, 2019 03:16PM)
[quote]On Jul 26, 2019, Dick Oslund wrote:
Dana and I have had a few "differences of opinion", but, I agree with her thoughts, above.

I just want to take a moment to say that in truth we agree on almost everything, and that I have no desire for any "differences of opinion" with you. Stunning, I know. :D

Have a good day. :)

Message: Posted by: Kong (Jul 28, 2019 07:40PM)
What an interesting thread. I read Dana's post a few days ago and I've thought about it quite a lot since. It's given me a new insight into something I've never given much thought in the past.

[quote]On Jul 26, 2019, Dick Oslund wrote:

A number of older men have thanked me for advice and encouragement.


You can include me in that list, Dick. You've been a great help and I've enjoyed our recent back-and-forth over the private messages. Thanks, it's very much appreciated.