MAGIC IN A VACUUM – One small slight for man by Bo Gerard

Magicians can be a solitary bunch; that is when they’re not going to ring meetings, lectures and conventions.

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Even though there is a great brotherhood in the magic world, and enthusiasts and practitioners are learning and sharing tricks, a lot of them are doing it in a vacuum.  They aren’t seeking help or advice from other kinds of professionals that might take their act, and brand, to a much higher level.

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Magic is a theatrical art, and theater is a collaborative art.  No one would be surprised to learn that a theatrical producer collaborates with playwrights, directors, lighting and costume designers, choreographers, and even the performers; so that the show is the best that it can be.  Yet many magicians never submit their work for review or improvement by anyone outside of the magic world.

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This, I feel, is an unfortunate choice.  You don’t have to be a Las Vegas headliner to take advantage of this kind of collaboration.  There is so much that can be improved by having other theatrical professionals contribute to your work.  A stage director can help you with pace, flow, sight lines, comedy, and more.  A choreographer can help you make beautiful, yet appropriate, pictures on stage; and can even help you with misdirection.  And lighting and costume designers know more than you do about making your time on stage spectacular.

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The help you get from these experts will breathe "fresh air" into your work, and it will help you sell your show, by giving you a stronger visual brand.   Any act can benefit from working with these pros, whether you do grand illusion, platform shows or strolling.  Being a magician can mean more than merely doing tricks.  You can create a character, a persona.  An ACT!  Don’t go it alone.

THE BIG QUESTION - Winston Stone, Ph.D. - a true renaissance man by Bo Gerard

Here’s the next in my series of blogs profiling some of the great artists and performers I have worked with in the last 40 years. They all get the same 6 questions, and then I ask them “The Big Question”.

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This week I profile the inimitable Winston Stone - musician, actor, composer, educator and all-round great guy! I have been involved in numerous projects with Winston over the past 30 years. and can personally vouch that his talents are limitless. Winston grew up in Hicksville, Long Island, which was mostly potato farms then.

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His resume is way to long to list in this short interview, but he has played with major symphony and opera orchestras, in musical theater pits, and played for artists such as Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Marvin Hamlisch, Bernadette Peters, Johnny Mathis, James Taylor, Tony Bennett, Debbie Reynolds, Michael Bolton, Paul Anka, Maureen McGovern, Natalie Cole, Linda Ronstadt and Ben Vereen, to name just a few! And if that’s not enough, in 2008 he received his PhD, and was a professor at UT Dallas until his retirement last year.

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What were your influences? “Having fairly eclectic tastes I’ve been influenced by a variety of musicians and performers: Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley, and Sonny Stitt on Saxophone; Karl Leister, David Glazer, Pete Fountain, and Acker Bilk on Clarinet. The Beatles. Several comedians.”

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What other jobs have you had? “I’ll just list some of the jobs I’ve had: Newspaper boy, worked in a dog kennel, snow shoveling, lawn mowing, Suffolk County Highway Department (potholes), building Castro Convertible frames in a factory, supermarket stocker and bagger, school custodian, clamming, played in a polka band, solfeggist for ASCAP and copyright consultant, substitute teacher, construction”

Do you have any hobbies? “Cycling, genealogy, walking”

Can you tell me about some of the highlights in your career? “Playing for Aretha Franklin (“I liked your playing.”), Johnny Mathis, Ray Charles, and James Taylor were thrilling shows.”

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What was the craziest gig you ever did? “I was once playing the musical “Carousel” for an extended run. In the final and very touching scene, Billy Bigelow returns from the afterlife to console Julie and tell her she should move on with her life without him. This is all done to the underscoring of a very emotional arrangement of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” One a Sunday matinee, the support wasn’t fully extended on the tree closest to the bench where the two were sitting. As the tree starts swing with the breeze from the AC, we can see the stage hands from the wings leaning in with each wave. Finally the tree comes down directly on Julie’s head, and a ready stage hand runs out and attempts to place the tree back. Unfortunately, Julie’s blonde wig was caught in the tree. Julie, without batting an eyelash, reaches up into the tree and places the wig back on her head as they finish the song a capella. The only sounds coming from the pit were stifled guffaws and drums.”

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"What has changed the most in your business in the last 10 years? “The quality of playing in the last 10 years has risen considerably. Young players have all sorts of technique and facility and the older ones who have survived are top notch.”

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“The Big Question” - You have occupied a unique position in the North Texas music community by straddling the world of Classical and Jazz, and truly doing exceptionally at both! Can this kind of duality be taught, or was it a product of your unique experiences and abilities? “I have been extremely lucky. Each time I have been at crossroads in my career, some wise person would lead me in the right direction. I was exposed to many genres of music when I was younger-- my Father liked Tchaikovsky, Glenn Miller, and the Dorsey Brothers. My high school mentor taught me about jazz when I needed a new musical experience. My college roommates introduce me to Bach, Mozart, and Mahler. There are many now that cross over from classical to popular music. Versatility seemed to be the key to staying employed. I’ve never met good music I didn’t like.”