John Wolfson has been drawn to magic for as long as he can remember. At 13, he joined a local wizarding group, and the older members of the group took him under their wing and piqued his interest in magic.
“I kept trying other things, and I kept coming back to magic,” Wolfson said.
Now Wolfson has been elected president of the group that helped him get interested in magic: the Syracuse chapter of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. At 22, he is the youngest president in the club’s 62-year history. Founded in 1949, the chapter is also known as Harris A. Solomon Ring 74 or Salt City Magic Club.
The Baldwinsville native, like most magicians, received a magic kit when he was young. This kit led him to pursue his passion for magic. Today, he works as a professional magician in central New York City, under his stage name, “Magical John”.
“As a professional magician, you wear a lot of hats,” Wolfson said. “It comes naturally to add the president to this list.”
His magical enterprise is the business of one man. He is a reservation agent, interpreter and marketer. He’s always working on something, whether it’s a new trick, a magic convention he might attend, or something for the magic club. Even sitting at a table conversing, his hands keep moving as he performs another trick. He even stops in the middle of a sentence and looks for a moment at the cards he is holding.
“Let me show you something that I worked on,” he said.
All of his energy, it seems, is always heading towards something magical.
His appointment to the presidency at such a young age reflects a change in the club and in magic clubs across the country. Increasingly, Wolfson said, members who have been heavily involved for decades are retiring. Their roles are increasingly occupied by younger members.
“It’s kind of an evolution of their role at the club,” Wolfson said. “They want to see the magic evolve in a direction that gives the younger members more involvement.”
With the new management came new challenges. The club recently lost its hangout and the 30-member group also merged with another local magic club that is part of the Society of American Magicians. The combined group is still looking for a meeting place.
The club were also forced to deal with a drastic change in the art of magic.
Technology, especially the Internet, has eroded the influence that traditional magic clubs once had. A Google search for the phrase “magic tricks” yields nearly 17 million results. There are still a lot of young people interested in magic, Wolfson said. The problem is that they are frequently turned away from traditional clubs, he said.
These clubs were once one of the few places, besides magic shops, where magicians could go to share their interest in art. They were often used as think tanks for magicians to get feedback and develop new materials. The internet has spawned video chat rooms, web shows, and YouTube videos revealing how tricks are done.
“These things are a great addition, especially for people living in areas where there is no magic club,” Wolfson said.
Yet no Internet resource can offer the knowledge and experience that a seasoned magician can, Wolfson said. The best solution is to strike a balance between the old and the new, he said.
Wolfson said there is no better example of how magic changes than something he saw at a recent convention. Jean Calvert– a 100-year-old magician whose biographer called him an actual Indiana Jones – was in the same room discussing magic with 35-year-old Lu Chen – widely regarded as Asia’s best young magician.
Even with all the changes that magic faces, Wolfson said he doesn’t see art going away anytime soon.
“As long as children see magic shows and that spark is lit, there will always be a future generation for magic.”
How to join the club: Anyone interested in magic or joining the Salt City Magic Club can contact John Wolfson at 708-5401 or visit saltcitymagic.com.