In 1992, Max Maven wrote an essay entitled “Divisive and Illusive”, essentially complaining that magicians were one of the few unlucky groups of artists who were expected to mingle with mere amateurs, a fate which prominent performers in other fields had the luxury of avoiding. If Maven were to visit some of the conventions I have attended, I think he would be happy to find that his wish has largely come true. In a convention I visited in London, for example, the boundary between high profile acts and the people who had paid to see them was very clear. In Japan, too, I have noticed something of a divide too, though perhaps to a lesser extent. At the other end of the spectrum is Spain, where in my (admittedly brief) experience, the social barrier between top professional and rank amateur is all but invisible. I really believe this is one of the reasons why the level of Spanish magic is so consistently high. The chance to surround yourself with amazing magicians can only help to elevate your understanding and dedication to the art, as I have found out first-hand. I’m lucky that as a Japanese-speaking foreigner I’m something of a novelty, but if I were a young Japanese magician in the same situation I doubt I would have seen either the same opportunities or improvements in my magic. In other words, I don’t get to hang out with great magicians because of my magic. Rather, my magic is what it is (for better or worse) because of the magicians I hang out with.
My time in Spain gave me many wonderful examples of how magicians at every level mix, and the effect it has on their magic. For example, on my visit to the great magic shop Magia Estudio in Madrid, I was invited to the back room to session with some other magicians. Along with a few Spanish greats, there were a number of young amateurs as well. And in fact, when talking through a coin routine I was working on, it was one of these unknown teenagers who gave me the ending to my routine. In another magic scene, it’s doubtful whether he would have even been allowed into the “inner circle” (in fact, come to think of it, neither would I).
Of course mixing with top pro magicians is great for the development of aspiring amateurs. But it is not necessarily one way traffic. Great ideas can come from unexpected places, but only if there are no artificial walls in the way.