Community of the Like-Minded

Dear Friends:

Tobias here – my turn to write to you all. As I write this, I’ve just returned from Pennsylvania, where I was blessed to help my mother celebrate her 90th Birthday. Amazing!

Something happened while I was there, that I think is just as amazing. I got to meet with some of the local magicians, who, when they found out I would be in town, invited me for coffee at their local meeting place. This is something that happens over and over again, and one of the ways I’ve made many, many friends over the years. Magicians reach out to others in our magical community, even when we don’t know one another.

I’ll never forget going to Hong Kong for the first time, and communicating with Albert Tam, who had a magic shop (or two) there at that time. He wanted to know all the details of our schedule – and I had no idea why. Until we disembarked from our plane, at the end of over 20 hours of travel, and were greeted by a group of about 30 magicians right there at the foot of the steps leading down from the airplane. The magicians showered us with flowers and streamers, followed us to our hotel, and then took us out to their favorite restaurant. We’re still friends with Albert and several others from that group some 25 years later!

It happened again when I first moved to the Bay Area – actually a little town called Boulder Creek, which is up in the redwoods between Santa Cruz and Cupertino. I was feeling very isolated, when two magicians from Silicon Valley got in touch by e-mail, saying “I hear you’ve moved to the Bay Area…let’s have lunch!” I was quickly welcomed into the Silicon Valley S.A.M., The Magic Garage, and other Bay Area magical communities. I no longer felt “all alone.”

This next paragraph may seem like a tangent, but bear with me.

When I started working with Jeff McBride, Jeff had just returned from his first time headlining a show in Las Vegas. He had more success before he turned 25 than most magicians ever do…and yet he couldn’t find real happiness. Why? Because he had a thirst for “real magic,” and felt like a fake every time he “pretended” to be one…even though audiences loved him and he was at the top of his game as a performer.

As Jeff likes to say, “you can’t give a gift you don’t have yourself,” and the magician’s job is to give the gift of a magical experience. But what does that really mean? Probably something a little different to each of us…but something important, nevertheless.

Jeff went on a quest to discover “real magic.” He visited occult stores, native American sweat lodges, ashrams, fire circles…anywhere he thought he might find someone who could clue him in to the secrets of real magic. He went anywhere he might experience magic outside of tricks and illusions, and he found several varieties. Probably the largest and most consistent form of real magic he found – and later introduced me to – was the community that formed around fire and drum circles. This was a community of individuals who were conscious about creating conscious community and community-centered events.

It was Jeff’s experience with these groups which lead to the creation of our very first “Mystery School” retreats back in the 1990’s. If magicians needed to have a magical experience that felt real to them before they could give that experience to others…well, we were going to provide them with the basis for that.

The first Mystery School retreat was made up of an invited group, asked to pay only the bare minimum to cover the cost of food and lodging. It was made of magicians who Jeff felt might be “ready” for the experience…and the group proved to be more than ready. Most were thirsty for something that felt authentic. They were open to experience something new and different…and they plunged into our drum, dance, ritual theater, discussions, and other elements (many still a secret, if you weren’t there). Together, this group of amazing individuals created something that I think is probably unique in the history of performing magicians, and something I still feel lucky to have taken part in.

Here’s one of the first groups to attend Mystery School. It’s not the very first one, as I can’t find that just now…but see how many people you recognize here:

Well…the Mystery School has evolved. Many aspects of that first set of retreats, (which we did for 10 years!) have either fallen away or moved to other kinds of events in which we sponsor or participate. One of the things that has survived, though, is the part I think of as the most powerful, and most magical – and that is the wonderful community that assembles and re-assembles, year after year, at our Magic & Meaning Conference to share company, wisdom and knowledge of our unique art. A community who recognizes magic as something more than just “light entertainment.” A community of truly caring, deep-thinking and feeling individuals who love magic as much as we do.

It has taken me a long time to fully appreciate the “real magic” that comes from this magic of community. It’s not big or flashy magic, but it IS a magic that can transform lives, and add richness and value for many, many individuals. All magic is about transformation, and I know this community has transformed my life in many wonderful ways, and I’ve seen it change others as well.

You might be thinking this sounds all well and good, but that you haven’t attended one of our events, and so aren’t a part of the community. Not true. If you’re reading this, you’re connected. The group is one of the most welcoming, warm groups it’s been my good fortune to encounter, and if you love magic, you’re already “one of us.” We have performers, philosophers, fans, and teachers. As Eugene Burger used to tell us, “The house of magic has many rooms,” and all are welcome. I know of nowhere that is truer than at Magic & Meaning.

But time is running out for attending this year’s gathering. Our cut-off date for hotel reservations at our discounted rate is Oct. 8. We have only a  half dozen or so spots left (72 is our maximum number). We already have talks booked from many of our favorite participants…and we’re all looking forward to spending time with our special guest, Mac King.

So…if you’re teetering there on the fence, trying to decide whether this is your year to attend, then now is the time to act. Go to, grab one of those spots, then reserve your room at the hotel (instructions are available when you register), and plan to be with us for another magic experience!

+ + +

I know conferences aren’t for everyone. However, if you’re reading this and thinking you would really just like to learn some magic, there’s another event just before Magic & Meaning that may be of interest. That’s Jeff’s Fall Training class, coming up this next week. You can register for just one day, or all four (with a hefty discount)…or anything in between. Each day is devoted to a single kind of magic: Mentalism and mental magic, Storytelling Magic, Séance and Bizarre Magic, and Stage Illusions. If you attend, you’re going to be amazed at how much you can learn in a single day!

+ + +

Finally, I want to let you all know I’m going to be offering my online workshop on marketing & management for magicians, based on my latest book, Beyond Applause. The class is very much like a college seminar: 12 sessions over 6 weeks, with homework in the form of worksheets to be done between each session. Before we’re finished, you’ll have actually done and received feedback on most of the things you need to do in order to run your own business as a performer.

I’ve booked and managed about $15 million in engagements for Jeff and Marco Tempest in all different kinds of venues over the years—if you want to find out how, this class will let you in on my secrets!

Dates aren’t set yet, but if you’re interested, please send me an e-mail, and I’ll let you know when the next set of sessions will begin.

That’s all for now…we’ll be back here in a couple of weeks…and hope to see you in the Monday Night classroom, at Magic & Meaning, or at one of our other events soon!


Tobias Beckwith

Comments are closed.