Guest Blogger: Ophir Samson
I am British-Israeli mathematician, economist and social entrepreneur, having grown up in London within an Israeli family.
I have practiced and performed close up magic throughout most of my life and, over the last ten years, have performed at many corporate events and private parties in London, Boston and Israel.
Over the last few years, I have turned to teaching magic, and established The Smadar School for Young Magicians, which gives magic lessons for children from disadvantaged backgrounds in Israel.
One day, when I was ten years old, a friend spread out a pack of cards on the floor, and asked me to pick one. I had never seen a card trick before. I picked my first card – the seven of diamonds – with much trepidation, not knowing what to expect. He then showed me four cards, none of which were my own. He took away three of them, again confirming with me that none of those were my own. There was one left, face down, on the floor.
I emphatically claimed it couldn’t be mine. It couldn’t have been mine, I thought, there’s no way. I turned it over to be greeted with my seven of diamonds once again, and it was then that I decided I wanted to be a magician.
Since then, I have been performing close up magic (alongside my career within other fields).
I believe that many of the lessons of magic and its performance translate over to many other fields – both professional and personal – whether it’s elegant presentation, good manners or engaging with those around you. The principles of audience engagement and delivery have been useful to me within many other subjects, from mathematics to economics to teaching salsa dancing!
Academically, I studied mathematics and earned my bachelors, masters and Ph.D degrees at Imperial College London and M.I.T in the United States. I am looking forward to soon beginning my MBA degree at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.
Today I work within the field of social investment, combining the ideas and practices of the investment industry in order to help solve severe social issues, such as unemployment, criminal behaviour and chronic health disease.
My magician’s website is nofearmagic.com
The intention and goal of every performance:
To me, the best magicians are those who are entertainers first, and conjurers second. They are those who don’t need the magic paraphernalia – the cards, the coins, the cups and balls – to entertain. Their personality and presence provides the entertainment. The cards and coins merely justify their presence, just as a grand piano does for the concert pianist.
Those magicians don’t go into “performance mode” when they begin a routine. The magic performance is just a natural extension of themselves, in the most honest, effortless way. They have lived with their art for so many years, that it forms part of them: They become their performances, and their performance becomes them. There’s no distinction between their “performance mode” and their natural selves.
I believe that I have a lot of work to do before I am that kind of magician. But one day I hope to get there. Until then, it’s my goal and my vision of every performance I do.
What I’m doing to help the craft of magic:
I have been very fortunate to have been taught by some of the best magicians around. They have invested time, effort, attention and trust in me, and I feel that it is now my turn to pass that on to the “next generation.”
So, a few years ago, I set up The Smadar School for Young Magicians, that gives lessons in magic and performance to children from underprivileged backgrounds in Tel Aviv, Israel. To date, I’ve given six courses at schools around Tel Aviv and have taught around 100 children through them.
Each course is made up of five weekly lessons. Each week, the children receive a new trick together with new props which they practice for the next lesson. At the end of the course, the kids do a show for their friends and family, and also receive a “certificate of excellence in the magical arts.”
For me, magic has been a fantastic tool to learn good presentation and leadership while developing confidence. However, up until now, magic (and magic lessons) have been rather inaccessible to the kids who would benefit from it the most. If it develops another generation of young magicians who love magic as much as I do, then I’ll be very happy!
Mike’s Guest Blog Commentary
Long before the birth of The Vincent Academy, Ophir was my very first student in Magic. We spent many Saturday afternoon discussing the fundamentals of card magic and close-up magic. What impressed me about him was his desire to learn and his inquisitive mind. His desire to understand the “why” as well as the “how” made him one of my finest students. He would ask me questions which even I hadn’t considered – in many respects, he helped me become the teacher I am today because his learning style forced me to teach myself how I did things so that I could pass it on to him and my future students. I learnt more about magic through teaching Ophir than I would have thought possible – I was thestudent on a very subtle level.
I am very proud of Ophir’s achievements – we are dealing with a polymath here, someone who has mastered many disciplines very well, I thought his first love was pure mathematics, I will leave it to him to share his other passions if you ever get the chance to meet him.
As for his magic, it is clean and impeccably executed with a style and delivery all his own.
Armed with this skill under his belt, he is someone whom I believe will make an invaluable contribution to people and humanity around the world – read his post again and presence yourself to his conscience about the world we live and the difference we all can make to people less fortunate than ourselves.