March 1, 2020

Dear Friends:

Tobias here. You may remember Mr. Spock’s endearing way of saying goodbye: Live Long & Prosper. Something we wish for all of you, as well!

As I write this, I’ve just visited Jeff and Abigail and Will Bradshaw as they headline the week at The Magic Castle. Later this month, Jeff and Larry will head off to the U.K., where one of their stops is at the Magic Circle in London. Two of magic’s oldest institutions in a single month!

As someone interested in keeping our own institution, McBride’s Magic & Mystery School alive and thriving, I’m wondering what we might learn from these two, much older organizations. I don’t have firm answers, but I DO have a few strong suspicions.

A few years back, Jeff and I were very much involved in Caesars Magical Empire…and attempt to re-create and expand on the success of The Magic Castle.

It was a magnificent attempt, and those of us involved have many fond memories…but it didn’t survive. So perhaps it might be profitable to look at the differences between the Magical Empire and the other two organizations. Here are just a few:

  1. Both the Magic Castle (the organization is actually the Academy of Magical Arts, but it’s easier to just write “The Magic Castle”) and The Magic Circle are non-profit membership organizations, with magicians themselves as the primary “first class members.” CME (Caesars Magical Empire) was a for profit business where all decisions were made by the corporation that ran it. Magicians were never more than employees.
  2. Both the Magic Castle and the Magic Circle recognize the excellence of those performing and lecturing there through annual awards ceremonies. This is their way of acknowledging both the excellence and importance of the art of magic. CME had no such means of acknowledging either the excellence or importance of those who performed there.
  3. Both the Magic Castle and Magic Circle are fully governed by a Board of Directors, with managers appointed by and answerable to that board. CME had fragmented leadership. Although there was a General Manager of Caesars Palace who was nominally it’s leader…in fact there was a “parent corporation” called Caesars Entertainment at that time which ran all of various Caesars properties, and which booked the magicians playing in the two theaters at CME. Caesars Food & Beverage was in charge of the dining experience there, and handling ticket sales and operations like cleaning and maintenance. And the entire place was designed, with dining room wizards, centurion characters and others hired and managed by Landmark Entertainment. Oh, yes…I had nearly forgotten that the whole marketing effort was run by the in-house marketing arm of Caesars Palace. The various management entities were often in conflict about who was responsible for what, who had the power to make various decisions and other facets of the operation.

 I’m sure there are many more differences, as well…but we have space and time limitations here, so I’m just going to go with what you see above. What are the lessons we can derive?

Let’s summarize the differences and see how we measure up:

The more successful organizations had a clear purpose other than profit. Both are dedicated to celebrating and furthering the art of magic. I feel good that our school is in alignment with this. We have a clear vision and purpose, and our decisions are not guided just by “the bottom line.” Although we know it’s important to turn a profit, that is NOT the primary purpose of the organization.

Both the Magic Castle and Magic Circle are non-profits, governed by the membership. Our school is a part of a for-profit corporation, so we don’t really fall into alignment there. We do make every effort to listen to our constituents (if you’re reading this, you are one), and to make sure we are serving their needs. I’ll come back to this in a minute.

In terms of clear leadership, I think we are in good hands. Jeff McBride is the founder and leader of the school, with Larry, Abigail and me as supporting “board” and fellow operators. We all advise and carry out the work of the school, and most decisions are by consensus…but when they aren’t Jeff’s word and vision rules. This means we don’t have to waste time arguing about who is in charge of what.

So…I feel that in many ways we’re in a good position for a very long and productive run! But only if we can maintain a strong sense of community with all of you who support us in one way or another. Without you, we wouldn’t stand a chance! We know our vision is strong and inspiring…to lift the level of our magical art, one student at a time. We know that we’ve been able to draw and inspire many who are the best of the best in our field. Just have a look at the “winners page” on our web-site, where we celebrate the success of our students:

But it takes more than a few successful students to keep our community healthy. For us, it’s those who have stepped up, often without any financial compensation, to help us make sure every aspect of our operation is efficient and user-friendly as we can make it. Visit the faculty and staff page to meet some of them:

Even more than that: It’s really people like you, who take the time to read this Museletter each month or tune in to see Monday Night Mystery School as a “member,” or who attend classes, or visit McBride’s WONDERGROUND each month. You, as much as any of us, makeup and contribute to the community and thus the organization. Thank you!

I do have an “ask” here at the end of this month’s note, and I hope you can help. As you probably know, we offer what we do on a very tight budget over the course of the year. Marketing via advertising is expensive, and not as effective as we would like it to be. What’s more, advertising and social media don’t always draw the people most suited to help us move our goals forward. You, on the other hand, already “get it,” and, if you’ve read this far, must care about the school and all we stand for. So here’s my call to action: Please take a few minutes and think about your friends who are either also magicians or magic enthusiasts—and take another couple of minutes to call or send them a note encouraging them to visit to see what we offer—and to sign up for this Museletter.

We promise to do our very best to continue offering our best in every video-cast, every live class and every event we sponsor…believe me, we want you to feel good about being a part of our magical community, just as we feel proud to have you. So I hope you’ll take a few minutes to help us continue to build on what we’ve done so far.

In the meantime, you might find it useful to consider these ideas in connection with the organizations you’re a part of—clubs, companies and organizations. I hope they might help you!
Thank you for joining us on our adventure of discovery! We look forward to seeing you again soon—online or in Las Vegas.

With gratitude.
Tobias Beckwith

PS: Have an idea for something we don’t offer now, but that you’d like to see? Drop me a line, and I’ll share your ideas with our team!

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