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A New Kind of Learning Experience

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Stack Clinic
Class of 2004
Las Vegas, Nevada
October 17, 2004

  Early arrivals joined us for the Mac King show on Thursday afternoon, and some hang time with Mac after the show. (Wednesday night we saw Lance Burton, who also visited with us.)

Thursday night we saw the Penn & Teller show, and spent some time with P&T afterwards  

  Clinicians on stage before the show in the Penn & Teller Theatre

Robin Leach attended the Clinic public show on Friday evening at the Jeff McBride Magic Center  

  Jeff McBride and Abbi Spinner join us for the Friday night dinner at the fabulous Aquaknox restaurant in the Venetian

Sessioning between courses at Aquaknox  

  As an added surprise, the late Friday night session was held at Penn Jillette's, home, aka "The Slammer"

Michael Close session  

  Swiss seminar

Mystery Lecturer Eric Mead collects a well-deserved standing ovation  

  Andy Greget, one of our favorite book dealers, attended his second Clinic, and brought books along too

Jamy, Eric, Michael:
Three Amigos


        To study and to learn, one has to approach the subject in a certain frame of mind. The cup must be emptied. Unfortunately most don't get "humility." But this is the way to approach the master.
        Last weekend in Las Vegas 16 of us (actually 15, as we eventually discovered one attendee turned out to be the Mystery Guest) approached two masters of memorized deck work for an incredible experience. Jamy Ian Swiss and Michael Close held nothing back. They not only jazzed with cards but also each other, riffing back and forth, sharing experiences to help us understand how powerful this tool can be.
        After attending Close-up Clinic in Philadelphia last year I knew I was in for something special at Stack Clinic. Swiss out did himself this time, putting together three unforgettable days of magic technique, guidance, inspiration, and a load of surprises.
        The Performance Critique Session is, to me, the most important part of Clinic. If only we had more sessions like this in the magic world. If only more of us cared enough about our art and our audience to seek out a master. If only we could show more humility and allow ourselves to be critiqued in such open and constructive ways, we'd probably do a lot better as artists, and magic would improve as an art form.
        The entire Clinic was peppered with Penn practicing his faros in the back and sharing some great ideas. Teller also stopped by and spent some time with us. And book dealer Andy Greget was on hand offering some great deals on hard-to-find titles.
        There always seems to be a broad range of experience/skill level at the Clinics. It ranges from people who are coming back to magic after a hiatus, to the working pros, and everyone in between. There were some who even learned a stack specifically to attend this Clinic, and others who are using it every day in their work. What better way for us to develop then by spending quality time with each of these people?
        I said this about my first experience at a Clinic and I can't help but say it again: If you want to improve your magic, if you want to get better at what you do and give your audiences something to remember, empty your cup. Empty your cup and attend the next Clinic. It will be the best three days you invest in your magic. Period.

Dennis Kyriakos
New York City, New York

        Stack Clinic was an incredible experience. Having previously attended Card Clinic, I had very high expectations for Stack Clinic. I am happy to say that Stack Clinic surpassed my high expectations.
        Jamy Ian Swiss and Michael Close were the perfect instructors for Stack Clinic. Both are working pros that have used the memorized deck for years. They shared their real-world experiences and held nothing back. Both Jamy and Michael are excellent teachers, who share their knowledge and passion for magic. The best teachers are those that recognize that they are still students; Jamy and Michael are serious students of magic.
        "The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires." -William A Ward
        Based on this definition, Jamy and Michael are great teachers. Thanks to them, Stack Clinic inspired me to "think" about magic.
        The mystery lecturer has been a special feature of past clinics. For Stack Clinic, the mystery lecturer was Eric Mead. His exceptional lecture, "Disorderly Conduct," was one of the best magic lectures I have ever attended. He revealed techniques that he has never before revealed to anyone. A phenomenal lecture, including detailed lecture notes!
        An important aspect of Stack Clinic was the camaraderie between the students. We had a diverse group of folks from all over the U.S. and Canada (and one from Singapore). The small size of the group provided the ideal atmosphere for learning. In addition to the daily sessions, there was plenty of time to get to know each other via the pre-clinic events, group dinners, and late-night sessions. It was a great group of guys, and I look forward to seeing them again at future magic conventions.
        If you are serious about magic, I highly recommend attending the next Clinic. There is no better way to improve your magic.

Joe Gallant
Somerville, Massachusetts

        Constructive criticism - advice and aid that is unprejudiced and which addresses not merely the technical aspects, but further, the presentational, the psychological, and on rare occasion, the artistic features of a performance - is undeniably one of the most treasured resources any working performer may receive. Unfortunately, such a resource also remains elusively difficult to obtain. Too often one is bombarded by oodles of comments from other magicians, most of whom are either too confined within the boundaries of their own style and approach to remark without bias upon that of any other, or, more dangerously, are wholly devoid of any viewpoint. This is particularly true when one begins to explore a new area of conjuring, for the neophyte is the most vulnerable to the influence of the ignorant.
        Stack Clinic, by nature of its highly-intensive schedule, fed its attendees with an experience incomparable to, and infinitely beyond, any typical magic convention or workshop. Replacing the gray, pointless monotone of the convention hall with the enriching splendor of the private classroom, it allowed those concerned to spend three days alongside - listening to and learning from - a trio of arguably the top magicians in the country, particularly as exponents of the memorized deck; three performers who with joyful abandon allowed themselves to divulge closely-guarded secrets and routines, for a monetary fee that seemed laughingly cheap in comparison to the knowledge gained in exchange.
        Stack Clinic provided the perfect opportunity to explore the many ins and outs of the memorized deck, with the end result of an ink-drained pen, a filled notepad, eight hours of audio recordings, copious amounts of coffee and cigarettes, and considerable sleep depravation. In short, a consummately sublime experience.

Prakash Puru
New York City, New York

        What a great experience! Having attended the inaugural Card Clinic in September of 2002, I had a sense of what to expect. Stack Clinic exceeded expectations, as a result of the different subject matter, venue, and performers. Michael Close and Jamy, as well as Eric Mead, were very open in sharing their ideas and experiences, and imparted incredible amounts of experience and information in a short period of time. Close possesses incredible knowledge, perspective, and is a first-class individual. The Clinic's greatest feature is its holistic approach - it's not all tricks! Card Clinic(s) have already changed my magic ... forever (although it is now six days, since it is my second Clinic!).

Mark First
New York City, New York

        When I first heard of the concept of Stack Clinic I knew it was an absolute must-attend. Having already attended the first Card Clinic in New York, there was no question about the quality and more importantly the value of studying under two masters, not only of the memorized deck, but of close-up magic in general. Jamy and Michael exceeded my expectations. Period.
        One of the highlights for me was the small nuances to already published moves and tricks. This is the kind of expert advice that can only be gleaned from extensive experience and thoughtful reflection of ones work. How many times did I hear "This isn't in the description, but you need to know this." or "Here's what makes that move deceptive." This is info that could take years to learn from a book and an eternity to learn from a video. It took three days at Stack Clinic.
        In reviewing my notes, I noticed a trend. There were many stars next to certain passages. Of course I starred them because someone said "I don't usually tip this." or "Please don't let this info get around." or as Eric Mead said, "If you show this to anyone, I will never speak to you again." Mentors sharing information via the oral tradition. The foundation of learning for me has been seeking out the right teachers. If anyone asks why that's important, I'll show them this paragraph.
        I also had a blast meeting and greeting this group of people. Everyone was committed, intelligent, and most importantly, fun to be around. A GREAT group. And the extra events need to be mentioned, too. Having the opportunity to meet and talk to Lance Burton, Penn & Teller, Mac King, and Johnny Thompson ... I'm not sure I can put it into words. "Wow!" comes to mind, so does "Thanks!" to Jamy and Michael for asking their friends to participate. Special thanks to Penn (and Emily!) for graciously offering "The Slammer" for our evening technical colloquium, that was indeed a special night.
        Eric Mead as the special mystery guest was a perfect choice. I had no idea of the depth of his knowledge and commitment to the memdeck. His detailed lecture notes were especially appreciated. Having Eric around for the entire Clinic was also a huge benefit.
        Which I guess brings me to the only complaint I have: too much info! O.K. maybe not, but damn, this is going to take forever to go through. But I have a feeling it might be worth it in the end.

David Rudd
Seattle, Washington

        I attended Card Clinic in Cincinatti earlier this year and had a blast. There was great camaraderie with the other attendees, excellent instruction from both Jamy Ian Swiss and Roberto Giobbi, a guest lecture and performance from Harry Riser, and a private tour of the Ken Klosterman magic collection. I honestly didn't think my Card Clinic experience could be topped. But for various reasons, Stack Clinic was even better than Card Clinic!
        Those who arrived early were able to see the shows of Lance Burton, Mac King, and Penn & Teller. Not only did we see some excellent magic, but we were able to visit with them after their shows. As an unexpected treat, we saw the Lance Burton show with some other magicians who we mingled with after the show. Some guys named Giovanni Livera, Bill Herz, Johnny Thompson, and Mac King. All this happened even before the formal Clinic began!
        When Stack Clinic "officially" began, there were more surprises for me right from the start. Eric Mead, an excellent magician whom I had seen perform at the Magic Live convention, was there to learn. Also, in the back of the room, was Penn Jillette. Boy, was this going to be a good Clinic! The next day, Teller also joined us for the Clinic. Incredible!
        I am a self-proclaimed neophyte when it comes to the memorized deck. But that didn't stop me from attending Stack Clinic. Jamy told me before Card Clinic that the only skills I needed were a love of magic and a willingness to learn. (Okay, maybe knowing a stack would be helpful for Stack Clinic). Well, I came out of Card Clinic unscathed and inspired, and expected the same from Stack Clinic. I was right. Before the announcement of Stack Clinic, I never thought of learning a memorized deck. But, being a past attendee of Card Clinic, I knew the thought and effort that Jamy Ian Swiss would put into this. He would make this experience intense, enjoyable, and thorough, no matter what your skill level. Truth be told, I just became somewhat comfortable with a memorized deck the day prior to the Clinic. Needless to say, I felt I was ill-prepared for these next three days. I thought that I would be left floundering while I watched the others progress. I was wrong.
        Some great information was shared over those three days. What really impressed me was how much information was being shared for the first time. There were numerous times when Jamy or Mike would share information that they had not shared with anyone else. Those were the moments when you really heard pens scribbling on paper.
        Guessing who was going to be the guest lecturer was a topic of conversation at Card Clinic. Likewise, it was a fun topic at Stack Clinic. Various names were kicked around, but we were all wrong. Our guest lecturer was Eric Mead - talk about hiding in plain sight! I, like some other attendees, didn't pick Eric because I didn't know his expertise on the subject. I don't think I'm wrong when I say that all of us were honored and privileged to hear his lecture regarding the memorized deck.
        It should be noted that not all of the attendees used the same stack. Some used the Aronson stack, while others knew the Tamariz stack. This didn't matter. The Clinic was structured for using a memorized deck, not a specific stack.
        Many of those who attended Stack Clinic had attended prior clinics. Why? Well, I can't answer for the others. Personally, I attended another Clinic not only because of the subject covered, but because I knew the three days would be educational, inspirational, and above all, enjoyable. Stack-clinic was a blast! I don't know if Jamy can top this, but I know he'll do his best to do so. I now have to attend Close-up Clinic to complete my clinic "trifecta." Are there other types of Clinics in the future? I don't know, but I'll tell you this: I have started a separate "Clinic" savings account for future Clinics!

Jesse Panganiban
Las Vegas, Nevada

        The salient characteristic of the entire weekend for me was its quality. Jamy obviously doesn't do this to make a lot of money. He spent a lot of his potential profits treating everyone to a great dinner in a private room of an outstanding casino restaurant. Everything - including the other lecturers, the materials supplied, the underground information, the meals, and the surprises -evidenced Jamy's commitment to teaching and to making the event first class.
        It is also important to note the people that Jamy gets involved. The instructors were great. Jamy, Michael, and Eric riffed off of each other through each teaching session and made it entertaining without detracting from Jamy's pedagogical intent. Furthermore, getting to hang out with Penn & Teller was worth the price of admission, as was meeting and spending the weekend with the other clinicians who are all exceptional individuals.
        Finally, the ability to spend a weekend with working pros and solicit their feedback on your technique and presentations is priceless. Add to that the sub rosa information that was exchanged, and the Card Clinic events are not to be missed. If someone were to break their promises to Jamy, Michael, and Eric and publish copies of their Clinic notes, they would be among the most important works in memdeck literature.
        If you have ever read Jamy's erudite book reviews and wondered what it would be like to hang out with him for a weekend and drain his brain, these Clinics are your chance. It is absolutely worth the effort to do so. If my schedule permits, I will definitely attend future clinics.

Chris Gillett
Houston, Texas

        Thank you for a most delightful Clinic, enriching experiences, and memories. Having traveled halfway round the world, I must say that I enjoyed the learning and appreciate the teaching. To have three of the top practitioners in the field of close-up magic was absolutely a treat.
        Stack Clinic was full of surprises, with guest visits as well as arranged meetings with the leading magical entertainers such as Lance Burton, Mac King and Penn & Teller. Rest assured, as students we were well taken of. Jamy ensured that we ate well, learned abundantly, and enjoyed ourselves completely. He was mindful about our individual needs as students. He follows up and follows through. Even after the Clinic, he and his colleagues continue to update us.
        Both Jamy Ian Swiss and Michael Close are generous and sincere teachers. They were always available to tutor anyone personally. The quality of instruction was high, with Jamy, Michael and Eric Mead on-hand to clarify a sleight, a routine, or perform an effect for us. The actual performances by Jamy, Michael and Eric for a live audience demonstrated their competency as professionals, while reinforcing the fact that they "walked the talk". I have deep respect for these gentlemen, their skills, passion and commitment to magic.
        With guest lecturer Eric Mead it completed the circle. Each personality was complementary. The faculty of teachers made it fun and funny. It was interesting to have magic's top book reviewers in one room - agreeing and disagreeing with one another. Yet, what was strongly evident was the common thread amongst them - a profound love and respect for magic as an art and a profession.
        In the final analysis, I would strongly recommend that those thinking about Card Clinic ATTEND. This was my first, and certainly not my last. The learning fee should not deter you, as the impact of the instruction is significant and unforgettable. I personally thought that the results it exceeded my expectations. There were many gems worth their weight of the workshop. I have begun using some of these learning in my performances to great audience response. With the abundance of instruction, information and deep sharing, 27 hours of flight time to the USA was worth it. Thank-you Jamy, Michael, and Eric for being my teachers in magic."

Enrico Varella

        Both my oldest son, Jacob, and I attended the Stack Clinic. I have been using the memorized deck for about six years and Jacob (who had never used a mem eck) learned the Tamariz stack just to prepare for the Clinic.
        Over the years, I have made an effort to research and learn memdeck work. I had read Aronson, Close, Elmsley, Tamariz, and Joyal, just to name a few. Not withstanding my previous knowledge, I found the Clinic to be an extraordinary learning experience far beyond any expectation. At the same time, although Jacob had no previous experience, he was able to follow and learn the deepest secrets of memdeck work.
        This was not some relaxed session work. This was a weekend boot camp that required earnest concentration, however, the lectures and the material were so captivating and significant, I do not think there was a single participant who was not awe struck by the entire experience.
        I extend my deepest appreciation and respect to Jamy, Michael and Eric for a very special weekend that Jacob and I will always remember. We will most definitely attend any future Clinics that Jamy proposes.

Carl Rheuban
Malibu, California

        Stack Clinic was by far the best magic experience I've had (whether it be IBM conventions, meetings, lectures, etc.). It was so much more than the usual format of show a trick - then teach a trick. Since the Clinic ended two weeks ago, I have given a lot of thought to my magic and where to proceed from here. I only regret that I didn't participate in the opportunity to have a performance critiqued. Between yourself, Michael, and Eric there is a lot of years of professional knowledge and experience - and it would have been unique chance to receive quality, meaningful evaluation of performance. (A lack of confidence should have been all the more reason to just do it and participate.) Thanks again for offering such a well planned Clinic. The amount of information given in three days was truly awesome.

Mike Okun
Solon, Ohio

        Wow! Did I have a great time at the Clinic - wonderful stuff that exceeded my expectations, and I expected it to be great! Not only the course material, but also the bonding times that you built into the program. And then of course the outings, shows and after the show get-togethers with Lance, Penn, Teller, Jeff, and Mac King - all wonderful. I loved the way that you injected the total period with great extras. Everything from the great trips to eat, to see shows, to meet the stars, to visit "The Slammer" and to Jeff's magic school - all added bunches of excitement, and many special Las Vegas memories.
        During class time, I loved the banter between Eric, Mike, and yourself. It very much added to the flow of creativity. I sensed that the three of you were motivating each other forward to deliver your best thoughts. The way in which you shared sessions was very helpful as you both had a lot to offer on each topic.
        The work on false shuffles and cuts was really good. The highlight to me amongst all of the other great stuff was Eric's presentation. This material alone made the Clinic well worthwhile. No doubt about it, Eric's lecture was very innovative and full of good stuff. Even though I have had Eric many times in my front room with me through Mike's DVD, at the Clinic I failed to tune in and recognize him. Even his name, although familiar, did not ring a bell. As I was thinking that Eric was simply just one of us students, I could not get a handle on the special relationship that obviously existed between the three of you - Mike, Eric and yourself. It was a prominent part of the time we spent together; you were clearly good friends with a strong history together. Of course, you mischievous folks had a secret to keep! It all became clear when you introduced Eric as the guest speaker, and the quality of his contribution became clear. And what a great presentation! Eric captured my heart. His love of magic made him my blood brother.
        How could one not be thrilled by spending time with Mike Close? He is so full of ideas and extremely generous. It was whilst talking to Mike on the Phone years ago that he turned me on to Simon Aronson. I have had so much pleasure from the memdeck since that conversation.
        The session on Tricks was wonderful, especially your stuff, I loved it. The handout folder was full of very good stuff. The feed back on my presentation was very valuable - two pages of notes - uncomfortable as it may have felt. The feedback was great stuff and I will be working on it across the board of the things that I do. You had a lot to offer. Boy, you could write a book an the subject, why not call it something like "Shattering Illusions?"
        Now for the best of news. I feel that I have found 20 friends that share a very special interest with. We made great ties that I think will last for many years. I hope that you will have an advanced Stack Clinic as a reunion! I would most certainly advise other folks to attend one of your Clinics, although I might just want to keep the memdeck out of their reach! Thank-you, Jamy, for one of the best weekends ever.

Terry Wenham
Roswell, Georgia

        Whew! What an action-packed and educational time we all had in Vegas together. Sorry, I shouldn't speak for the rest of you. But I know that Jamy (fearless leader), Michael (genius sidekick), and myself (comic relief), had a ball and learned a lot from being with each of you. Mostly, it was a joy to spend time with people who are serious about their magic, open to new ideas and in the mood for real sharing (you--gentle reader.) What a refreshing change from most magic conventions I've been to.
        I hope that in reviewing your notes and taking some time to absorb the content of the Clinic, you came away with really useful information. As Joe Montagna said in House of Games, "You have seen sights few have seen." In the spirit of art and artistry, my real hope is that the Clinic provided each of you with a shot of inspiration - to create, to explore, to adapt, and to use the stack to bring an experience of magic to whoever your audience might be.
        My guess is that you were overloaded during the short time we spent together, but that's a good thing. It means that you can jump right in and begin to work on whatever moves you now, knowing that there is more to learn and to work on whenever you are ready. It really is a tool capable of endless variation and seeming miracles - perfect for any magician interested in self-expression through the performance of artistic magic.
        I was very impressed with each of you, and I consider it an honor to have been involved. This is a case where I really hope that what happens in Vegas, does not stay in Vegas.
        That's it. I'm back to the life of a professional freelance entertainer. But I have memories and lessons that will last a lifetime. I trust the same is true for you...

Eric Mead
Snowmass, Colorado