Posts Tagged ‘spencersmagic’

LET’S REVIEW THE LAST 60 DAYS….

Monday, August 11th, 2014

1-Kevin-with-Kids

This Blog has been a “work in progress” over several weeks, bits and pieces pulled together from Istanbul, Tanzania, Uganda, Cairo and, finally, on a train from Braga, Portugal to Lisbon.  I am now at home in Virginia after an adventure that I still haven’t had the time to fully process. For 8 weeks, I traveled through 20 cities in 8 countries on 4 continents speaking at conferences, teaching educators, and working with vulnerable children in developing countries (extensively in Uganda). I’ve been struggling to find the words to describe this entire experience…and each time I try, I am completely overwhelmed by emotion. I do know this, there’s no way I could return to the USA and be the same person I was before I left.  Those 8 weeks had a profound impact on me as a person, an artist and a member of our global society.

2-SHOTS Team

I wasn’t working alone in Uganda. A group of seven artists and educators formed a team we call SHOTS – taking a shot at changing the world through Service, Hope, Optimism, Teamwork, and Sustainability.  This is a remarkable group of people and I’m proud to be associated with each one of them.  Thank you Susan for your vision!

Over a period of 4 weeks, I was privileged to team up with Susan O’Rourke (Carlow University, PA) and participate in Professional Development training for literally hundreds of educators instructing them on arts-integrated techniques for teaching students of all abilities in their classroom.  I also had the privilege of connecting with more than 10,000 children…I can’t even begin to describe the experience!

3-ISLS-JAPAN

The month of June started in Akita, Japan with a presentation on the impact learning magic tricks can have in the development of pragmatic and social communication skills with English Second Language (ESL/ELL) learners.  This presentation was based on an on-going research project being implemented in Ogden, UT within the city school district.  Using the Hocus Focus curriculum, we are determining the potential benefits that using magic tricks can have on increasing language skills in ESL students.

4-Kevin-Melina-ISLS

Educators in the field of Language Studies gathered from all over the world for this conference.  I joined a colleague from Weber State University, Melina Alexander, and our presentation was well received.  As a result, we are exploring other possible research projects to develop this aspect of Hocus Focus more fully.

6-BRAGA2014

July ended in Braga, Portugal at the Division of International Special Education and Services (DISES) Conference.  Working again with Susan O’Rourke from Carlow University in Pittsburgh (and immediate past-president of DISES), we made two presentations – one on The Magical Benefits of a Technology-mediated Arts Curriculum and another on Working with Vulnerable Children in Post-Conflict Uganda.

In the weeks between Japan and Portugal, I traveled thru Asia, Europe, and Africa.  The experience was life changing, overwhelming, and emotional.

7-BKE Mural

One of the many highlights of this trip was sharing it with one of my special friends, Mike Thompson – and the opportunity to meet and work with Kyle Holbrook.  He is an amazing artist and the founder of Moving the Lives of Kids Forward Community Mural Project (the MLK Mural Project).  His work can be seen all over the world in some of the toughest neighborhoods in major urban areas.  Kyle designed a mural for the Bright Kids Uganda orphanage in Entebbe.  Combining his mural with a little bit of magic, we spent three days giving a voice to vulnerable children that can still be heard through the images they created on this mural and the stories they told through their magic.  It was a time of teamwork, creativity, and expression.  Ultimately, the experience was about empowering vulnerable youth through art education – whether it’s visual art (the mural) or performance art (the magic).

8-Kevin-with-tribe-leaders

Another memorable moment was working with the Teso Tribe in the village of Opucet, literally translated “the village of peace.”  The SHOTS team worked hand-in-hand with the tribe to lay the foundation for an inclusive school that will educate all children in the area.  Check out this welcome dance!

9-Tribal-WelcomeDance

 

 

4-Kevin with Tribe 2

At the end of our time together, they brought me before the elders of the tribe and gave me a new name, Emural.  In the Ateso language, it represents “the one who is a symbol of our clan and expands our borders.”   There is a lot of responsibility connected with a name like that!

If you want to “experience” a portion of my UGANDA ADVENTURE, you can watch this presentation:

12-UGANDA ROAD

 

POWERFUL MEDICINE: SIMPLY MAGIC

The world premiere of my short documentary – POWERFUL MEDICINE: SIMPLY MAGIC – took place in Portugal on July 17 at the DISES Conference.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the theatre as an audience of more than 400 watched and responded with a standing ovation.

Powerful Medicine: Simply Magic explores the transformational benefits of the art of illusion in bringing about authentic and meaningful changes in the lives of individuals with different abilities.  The film gives a compelling voice to those whom are “different” reminding all of us that they are remarkable people capable of doing extraordinary things. These voices urge us to acknowledge that their futures are often molded by our attitudes and perceptions about them. As a global society, we must start appreciating what they can do and stop focusing on what we believe they can’t do.  You can check out the trailer HERE:

13-FILM-title-IMAGE

In September, I am planning a national media blitz with several appearances on the FOX News channel in NYC.  And I have already begun submitting the film to various international film festivals.

15-JOIN THE MOVEMENTa

Everyone who supports people with disabilities is, in some way, an advocate for their best interests.  The international conversation about disability issues has been taking place for years but change – real change – must happen in the hearts and minds of ordinary people, not merely in policy and law.  You and I can raise awareness of international disability issues, change people’s perceptions and attitudes, and provide opportunities for individuals with different abilities to share in the global society.  If you agree that we can’t stay where we are on this issue, then I hope you’ll be a part of looking for a better way forward.  You can start by joining us on Facebook!

FLINT HILLS SUMMER MAGIC CAMP

16-FlintHillsSummerMagicCamp

During the months of June and July, more than 80 kids enrolled in the Flint Hills Summer Magic Camp in Manhattan, KS.  This was the pilot program for an on-going research project to evaluate the benefits of learning magic tricks on executive function and communication skills of children on the autism spectrum and with ADHD.

As August began, Eli and I drove to Oxford, Ohio to conduct Magic  Camp at the Miami University of Ohio – more on that camp next time!

 

SIGHTSEEING IN AKITA, JAPAN

Monday, June 16th, 2014

The conference officially ended today (Sunday) at 12noon.  I was able to squeeze in a bit of sight-seeing before I need to catch my next flight on Monday back to Tokyo and on to Istanbul.  The first stop – coffee at Tully’s!

14-TULLEYS

The pastry item next to my “honey milk latte” is a ham and gooey cheese thing.  :-)  It was very good and inside, yes there was gooey cheese!

15-GOOY-CHEESE

After some food, were were off to explore the area.  First stop was a little shopping area where I could pick up a souvenir for my office that would remind me of Akita.  Next, we were going to go to the Art Museum.  As we approached the plaza, we could hear chanting and singing.  As it turns out, Japan was playing in the World Cup today so there were hundreds of fans watching the game on a giant television screen on the side of one of the buildings.  They were pretty excited!  This is me with one of the “cheerleaders” of the group…

16-SOCCER-FAN-KEVIN

There are statues and artistic representations of the Namahage everywhere.  He is considered the “protector” of Akita but the tradition dates back hundreds of years.  Here are a few of the ones I liked:

17-AKITA-MASCOTS

20-NAMAHAGE-AKITA-FAIRLY

As we walked through some of the shops, it became very clear that the Japanese are very creative and will invent (or sell) almost anything like this toilet game…

21-DUNKIN-GAME

or these brushes to clean your dishes…

22-WASHING-SPONGE

And so many choices for snacks…

11-SO-MANY-CHOICES

But there were a few familiar things as well…

19-MR-DONUT

18-IGLOO

The last stop of the day was a walk through Akita City Park.  This is a beautiful space in the heart of the city.  I took a lot of photos but wanted to share these….enjoy.

23-PARK-ENTRANCE 36-PARK-RED-POLES 35-PARK-POND 34-PARK-PATH 33-KEVIN-VEGETATION 32-KEVIN-RED-POLES 31-KEVIN-PAGODA-THING 30-TEMPLE-CLEANSING 29-TEMPLE-CARVING 28-PARK-BEAUTY 27-KEVIN-PARK-FOX-STATUE 26-KEVIN-MONUMENT 25-KEVIN-MONUMENT-POSING 24-KEVIN-BIG-FOUNDER-STATUE

Tomorrow morning, I’ll take the bus back to Akita Airport and fly to Haneda Tokyo Airport…and then transfer to Narita International Airport.  My flight for Istanbul leaves in the evening and I should arrive there at 5am!  I’m sure I will be totally rested :-)

PODCAST INTERVIEW ON ITRICKS

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

We’ve been staying busy around the Spencer office. Just because we’re not on the road, doesn’t mean their aren’t lots of things to do!  Chase has spent the last few days working in the warehouse repairing illusions, organizing cases, and making a list of all that needs to be done over the coming weeks.  Keith has been processing contracts, working on the new tech package, and making sure the office is running smoothly.

Today, however, I had the privilege of being interviewed for the iTricks Podcast with Justin Robert Young.  All the guys at iTricks have been big supporters of our work and this was an opportunity to talk about some of my recent research in healthcare and education.  You can check it out HERE.

SUMMER 2012

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

The Spring 2012 is over but that doesn’t mean things stop for the Summer.  We have a fairly full schedule of “To Do” things for the next few weeks. Our first trip away from Virginia will be MAGIC CAMP in Manning, SC at Weldon Auditorium.  This was the first stop of our Fall 2011 tour and Chase and I will be heading back to teach 30 kids the “tricks of the trade.”

The big trip of the summer will be Ireland in early July.  I have been invited to teach psychologists, therapists, artists, educators, academics, and researchers the technique of using simple magic tricks in rehabilitation.  The event is being hosted by the University of Ulster Jordanstown (just outside of Belfast).  With this new information, therapists will begin a research project specifically exploring the benefits of “magic therapy” for clients with hand injuries.

After this workshop in Jordanstown, I’ll be traveling to the west coast of Ireland to Sligo.  This is where the DISES Conference – a gathering of special education professionals – will be hosted.  I’m presenting a paper on the benefits of arts integration for students on the autism spectrum – part of the Hocus Focus project.  It should be a great adventure!

Throughout the summer, we will be rehearsing several new illusions as well.  We’ve got some great things in store for the 2013 production.  And we are welcoming a new person to the team.  Our performance at McCarter Theater last weekend marked the end of Alan’s three years with us on the road.

It’s going to be a busy summer….for sure.

McCARTER THEATRE – PRINCETON, NJ

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

After an amazing 2011/2012 tour, we arrived at our final destination.  Our tour wrapped on the stage of the Mathews Auditorium in the McCarter Theatre on the campus of Princeton University in New Jersey.  This was not our first time to perform here and I knew it would be the perfect place to end the tour.  I wasn’t disappointed!

Mathews is approximately 1100 very intimate seats in a beautiful theatre.  The crew, headed by Steve Howe, is professional and friendly – and they know how to get the job done.  We were backed up to the loading dock and they started rolling cases from the trailer to the stage.  With their help, we had the entire production set up in less than 4 hours – I’m sure that’s a record!

As we moved through the day, we were able to begin our lists for what needs to be done over the summer in order to get the show ready to hit the road again in just a couple of months.  However, we are all looking forward to a little down time over the next few weeks.

Our last performance here was in 2009 and we had a fantastic audience.  It’s a great theatre because, no matter where you sit, there simply isn’t a bad seat to view the stage.

Doors opened at 7pm and an eager audience made their way to their seats.  It was my favorite audience – a mix of families, seniors, college students, and teenagers.  Once the show started, the audience became fully engaged in the magic.  They were an outstanding crowd – fun, excited, energetic, and great volunteers…it’s just one of the reasons why we love performing in New Jersey!

Thank you to everyone for making our 2011/2012 tour so much fun.  Thank you for supporting us – and for continuing to support the art of magic!

We will be posting our tour schedule for 2012/2013 in just a couple of weeks so stay tuned!

FREED CENTER FOR THE ARTS – ADA, OH

Monday, January 30th, 2012

This was our first visit to the Freed Center for the Arts but the last time we were here was almost 10 years ago!  The shows has changed so much since then (and so have we).  This visit was very different from the last time.

On Friday night and Saturday morning, we made the drive from New Lenox, IL to Lima, OH, got checked into our hotel, and almost immediately met up with one of the teachers from Marimor School.  This is a special school for students on the Autism spectrum and those with developmental disabilities.  I conducted a 2-hour inservice program for about 20 teachers from this school.  On Monday, I worked with the students in the classrooms to demonstrate in practice what we learned in theory.

After the workshop on Saturday, I made my way over to the Freed Center for the Arts where the rest of the guys were.  They had already begun unloading the truck and getting things set up.  We spent the next several hours setting up the show.  Sunday we had two shows – 2pm and 7:30pm. the crew at the Freed Center was great to work with.  We had fun while also getting everything done that needed to be done.  We left the theatre a little after 7pm to get dinner and some rest for the night.

Sunday morning started around 10am when we returned to the Freed Center to finish up the last of the details before the 2pm performance.  With two shows (2pm and 7:30pm), it was good not to have to be here any earlier than this!  Both shows went really well.  The audiences were great – enthusiastic and energetic!

Today (Monday), I returned to the Marimor School to work with the students.  Alan and Chase were with me so we could give more individual attention to the students.  It was an amazing day.  The kids were totally awesome learning and performing their magic tricks.  The teachers and aids were amazed at the way the tricks improved their attention to talk, motor skills, and behavior issues.

THANK YOU TO EVERYONE AT THE FREED CENTER, MARIMOR SCHOOL, and the towns of ADA AND LIMA FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT!!

PEABODY AUDITORIUM – DAYTONA BEACH, FL

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

This marked our first performance at Peabody Auditorium in Daytona Beach, FL.  It also closed our Florida tour for 2012.  And it was a GREAT way to end the tour!  Everyone at the Peabody made our time there easy and fun.  Load in, set up, and tech rehearsal were all ahead of schedule. But it was the audience that made the evening perfect.  We had a large enthusiastic crowd of all ages ready to have a good time.  Volunteers were excited to be on stage and their energy really moved the show along.  In the lobby afterwards, I had the chance to meet literally hundreds of people.  It was the perfect ending to a perfect tour!

Earlier in the week, Kevin Poor and Jill Jaquet had mad arrangements for me to visit a very special school in Daytona Beach.  The Monarch Academy is a center that targets children on the autism spectrum.  I was able to meet with the teachers in the morning and then work with the students.  I love these kids and, more importantly, I’m thrilled that the people at Peabody Auditorium are so willing to explore things in the community that can have a big impact!

THANKS TO EVERYONE AT PEABODY FOR A GREAT TIME IN DAYTONA BEACH!

NEW YORK CITY

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

I’ve just spent a few days in New York City, one of the most amazing places in the world.  There is an energy that’s difficult to explain if you’ve never experienced it first-hand.  I had great meetings, visited with friends, and saw some interesting performances.  I’m sitting in the Charlotte, NC airport now waiting for my connecting flight home.  I’ll have two days there before we start the 2012 tour.  First stop is Florida – and we’ll spend most of the month of January there.  If you want to check out the show, the tour schedule is on the website.

While walking through Rockefeller Plaza, I happened to come across a press conference Mayor Bloomberg was doing.  As it happens, he’s also a big magic fan.  I had the chance to shake his hand and chat with him for almost 10 minutes about his favorite books on improving your memory.

He asked me to recommend a good book on magic – not about secrets but about the art of magic.  I told him he should get Jim Steinmeyer’s book HIDING THE ELEPHANT.  Excellent book Mr. Mayor!

FINAL DAYS IN ISTANBUL

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

After three full-house performances at the TIM Show Center in Istanbul, we had a few days to relax before flying home for the holidays. Our time in Turkey has been a memorable experience.  I feel as though we have made so many new friends.  Working the Olcay, Fatih, Burcu, and the entire team at the Show Center was a great pleasure.  Yesterday, I received an email from Olcay letting me know that the cases had been picked up by the truck and were on their way to customs.  And Mary Ellen emailed from Los Angeles to let me know that they made it on the plane and are on schedule for delivery to our warehouse on Friday.  Perfect!

MONDAY

Monday was mostly a day to relax.  Cindy has still be fighting a bad cold and she needed this time to take care of herself, get some rest, and feel better.  Turns out rest is really what she needed (and some Vicks vapor rub, tylenol, and meds for a stuffy nose).  As is my habit, I went down to breakfast early at the hotel to read and relax.  When the restaurant had cleared and I was drinking my last cup of coffee, the waiters and staff came to my table with a birthday surprise – and, wow, was I surprised!  They even sang “Happy Birthday” to me!

TUESDAY

On Tuesday, we managed to squeeze in several things in  a few hours.  We made a visit to the “Sunken Palace” to see the Basilica Cisterns. They are believed to be built around 530 AD but weren’t discovered until 1530.  There is a famous scene in the James Bond movie, TO RUSSIA WITH LOVE, that was filmed in the cisterns.  There are two giant medusa heads that are believed to have come from ancient Roman ruins.  It was definitely worth the visit and Cindy’s favorite site of our time in Istanbul.

After the Basilica Cisterns, we decided to take another adventure into the giant Grand Bazaar.  There is so much to see in this place with over 4,000 vendors.  We found that there are many more places outside the covered bazaar – and they bargain much better than the ones inside.  Cindy really knows how to barter with these guys and we walked away with some really good deals.  Now we just need to figure out how to get them home!

As we walked around the area, we found a great “alley of art” – graffiti art, modern art, etc.  The entire alley was filled with fun little boutiques, cafes, and (of course) mural art on the walls.  Cindy wanted to take a few of pictures and I managed to get into a couple of them.

And then there were the more casual moments when I didn’t even know she was taking a picture!  I was looking over one of the walls by the Palace just wondering what could possibly be on the other side…and I could I explore it!

WEDNESDAY

Our final day in Istanbul was fairly relaxing.  I took my morning walk around the neighborhood and then back to the hotel for breakfast and coffee…and to say good-bye to the morning staff.  They have gone above-and-beyond to make us feel welcome.  We are now Facebook friends so I hope we can stay in contact between now and the time we return.

After breakfast, Cindy and I walked down to the Metro to catch the train to Taksim and connect on to Kabatas and then to the Grand Bazaar (yup, one more trip to the market).  As we walked down the street toward the Metro, we passed a delivery truck dropping off flour to the bakeries in the area.  I have never seen this much flour so I had to snap a quick picture!

We spent the day walking around the Bazaar area – mostly eating our way around the area.  There are a couple of McDonald’s here but I wanted to try something different….so Cindy and I had the McTurko – delicious!

We walked around the Bazaar for a couple of hours and then decided to walk toward the sea (it was either the Black Sea or the Aegean Sea) and explore those areas.  We picked up a few gifts for people, talked with some of the locals, and had a great time.  Several times over the past couple of days, people who watched me on the Saba Tumer show or were at one of the performances at TIM Show Center recognized me – either on the Metro, in the market, or simply walking down the street.  Many times, there were huge groups of people who simply wanted to take a photo or say hello.  It was a very humbling experience…and just a little overwhelming at times.

Later in the day, we had some of the more traditional Turkish foods – meats, vegetables, and sweets.  However, on the way back to the hotel late in the day, we just had to stop at a very unique place to check out the menu!

We made it back to the hotel by 5pm.  We are calling it an early night tonight.  We leave the hotel at 4am for the airport so that means getting up at 3am – that’s going to come very fast!

A final note: Spain was the perfect place to start this tour.  It’s hard to believe it was almost a month ago that we landed in Bilbao.  If you’ve read my blogs from Spain, you know that we made many new friends there.  Istanbul is, perhaps, one of the friendliest cities in which we’ve ever visited.  The people are warm, gracious, and helpful. When you consider it has more than 17 million residents, that says a lot.  I look forward to the time when we return.  It was the perfect city in which to finish our tour.  Tomorrow, we fly back to the USA – there’s no place like home.

BACK FROM PERU ADVENTURE

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

For the last 10 days I’ve been on an amazing adventure in Peru with my best friend, Mike.  We traveled the entire country – from the jungles of the north, oceans of the west, mountains of the east, and deserts of the south.  I have hundreds of videos and thousands of pictures.  I’ll post some of them here, others can be found on our Flickr page.  And I might be able to edit and post some video on YouTube.

We arrived in Lima very early in the morning and had almost a full 24 hours in the city before our trek into the jungle.  It is a beautiful city situated on the Pacific Ocean – modern in many ways but with a firm hold on its culture and traditions.  We walked along the paths (including the cliffs along the city) and through the parks of the city, explored the markets, and made a trip to Central Lima to check out the Catacombs of the Monastery of San Francisco.

We were picked up the following morning at 4am for our flight to Cuzco where we would connect to a smaller plane to Puerto Moldanaro.  Cuzco is about 12,000 feet above sea level and the cloud ceiling was very low….so we couldn’t land.  We flew on to Ariquepa, got off the plane, and waited until the weather cleared.  Finally back on the plan, we made our way to Cuzco on Peruvian Airlines.  Security was waiting for us as we got off the plane.  They immediately took us to our connecting flight on Star Peru (they were holding the plane for the 2 Americans) while the ground crew found our bags and made the transfer.  Once in Puerto Moldanaro, we took a little time to explore the town market and get some lunch.

After lunch, we were be picked up by our guide and start the journey to the Tambopata River.  Once there, we transferred to a boat and were taken up the river about 2 hours to the Inotawa Village in the Rain Forest where we spent the next few days.

No electricity and no hot water – just candles, tight mosquito nets on the beds, and village-grown foods.  The Rain Forest gets very dark at night, very early.  One night, our guide (Tuto) took us on a night walk to see just what comes out in the dark.  You could hear that bamboo rats, monkeys, birds, and other creators…and we saw some of the most interesting insects we’ve ever seen!  Close to the dining area, there were lots of pocket monkeys and lizards (big ones).

One morning, we were up very early (around 4:30am) to float up the river to the clay licks.  This is one of several places where the parrots, macaws, parakeets, and other birds gather to eat some of the mineral rich clay to keep their digestion working properly. Later in the day, we hiked to the Tres Chambotes Lakes to check out the river otters and cool off in the lake.  We were there long enough to catch a spectacular sunset over the Amazon Jungle.

After leaving the jungle, we made our way back to the small airport in Puerto Moldanaro to catch our flight to Cuzco.  From Cuzco, we drove to Ollantaytambo – an awesome village that I’d love to visit again.  We jumped on the train in Ollantaytambo for the last leg of this trip to Agua Calientes – the small town at the base of Machu Picchu.  Another early morning (4:45am), our guide met us outside our hotel to take us up the zigzag road to Machu Picchu.  It is the 100 Year Anniversary of its discovery and the perfect time of year to be there.  When you’ve completed your exploration, you can have your passport stamped with the official Machu Picchu stamp.

We wanted to be on the mountain early enough to see the sunrise over the Andes and to get registered to hike another significant mountain on the Incan Trail, Waynapicchu.  The Peruvian government only allows a small number of hikers on this mountain each day for lots of reasons, one of the most important being the narrow and steep path that takes you to the top.  It towers 400 meters higher than Machu Picchu offering views of the sacred valley and the ruins that are nothing short of spectacular!

Our Peruvian Adventure continued with a “journey” to the desert of the south to see the Nazca Lines, mysterious carvings in the rocks that have yet to be explained (though there are several theories).  We were booked on a small plane that flew over the lines giving you a good view of each of the 12 carvings.  Here are some pictures that we took and I have some great video as well.

After a day in the desert, we caught a bus back to Lima – about 7 hours.  There are no commercial flights to Southern Peru so car and bus are the only travel options.  With one last day remaining in Lima, we wanted to do something really extraordinary to wrap up this adventure – paragliding off the cliffs of Lima sounded like a great idea.

As I write this, I’m sitting at the Newark International Airport in New Jersey waiting for my connecting flight to Washington, DC.  I’ll be home in Lynchburg before 6pm.  What a phenomenal adventure and an opportunity to spend some time with my best friend…but I gotta tell you, I can’t wait to get home and see my beautiful wife Cindy!