FRONTENAC, Kan. —
When you think of a magician, some rather iconic images quickly spring to mind: black top hats and fuzzy white rabbits; card and rope tricks; smoking mirrors.
But a lot more goes into being a professional magician than just fancy finger work.
Jay Temaat is a magician. Actually, at age 17, he’s one of the most talented teen magicians in the country. He’s won national magic competitions in some of America’s largest cities. Next year he’ll be attending one of the most prestigious magic schools in America, the Las Vegas-based McBride Magic and Mystery School.
But the magic he performs is certainly more than just a hobby or, worse, a job.
“It’s a life,” said Temaat, who moved to the Pittsburg, Kan., area at age 11 from his native Wyoming. “A job is an understatement. With a job, you get to go home at night and have a social life. Magic is one of those things where every day, I’m performing or practicing. It’s something I’ve dedicated my entire life to, and I hope it takes me far.”
To truly understand the type of dedication Temaat has invested into his magic, one must first peer into a typical day of his rather hectic life.
On Monday, for example, Temaat began working around noon on mass mailing his resumes to the boards of hundreds of state and county fairs nationwide, trying to land future paying gigs. Even with his little brother’s help folding the letters and licking the envelopes, they didn’t wrap things up until 2:30 a.m.
Less than seven hours later, on Tuesday, he was driving to Pittsburg to pick up some of his newly printed materials. After that, he was on the road by 10 a.m. for the two-hour-plus trip to Wichita. There he would spend the entire day rubbing elbows with fellow magicians and speaking with one of his key mentors, magician Skip Foley. Later that night, at 10 p.m., he attended the “Wizards of Wichita” banquet. He didn’t leave Wichita until after 11 p.m. He reached his parents’ front porch steps at 2:30 a.m.
On Wednesday morning he was back on the road once again, this time motoring south to Joplin for a news interview. With that completed, he headed eastbound on I-44 for a show in St. Louis.
Recently Temaat attended the International Magic Experience at the New Orleans Casino and Resort on the Las Vegas strip, where he competed in the Teen World Magic Championships. He also found himself driving through the heart of the Lone Star state, attending and competing at the International Brotherhood of Magician’s Convention in Dallas. He topped off his Texas trip by performing live in front of cheering crowds in the streets of Galveston.
He has performed in multi-billion dollar casinos and has done his act to standing ovations in nightclubs where he’s old enough to entertain, but too young to drink an adult beverage. But just as deftly, Temaat will perform at a small birthday party for elementary school children in Frontenac, or put on a show for the elderly inside a Pittsburg-based nursing home.
“People say their job gets old,” Temaat said. “But if you love it -- if you love what you do -- you’ll never work a day in your life.”
‘I can do this’
Already bitten by the magic bug, Temaat began performing locally at the age of 12.
In 2009 and again in 2010, he attended the World Magic Seminar in Las Vegas, known as the magic capital of the world. When he saw kids his age up on the stage, performing their magic, he realized he wanted to devote the rest of his life to the art of illusion.
“That was truly a monumental moment for me,” he said. He saw how good the teen magicians were, and he thought to himself that maybe he, too, could make a living at performing magic. “I thought, ‘I can do this. I just have to go for this.’”
Go for it, indeed.
In 2011, instead of watching the teen magicians from the audience like he’d done the past two years, he was one of the 40 teens performing onstage. Though he didn’t win first place -- an 11-year-old from South Africa took that honor -- he was one of the top 40 teen magicians competing in the world. And he did well enough to nab a full-ride scholarship to the world famous McBride Magic and Mystery School. It was the highest scholarship ever awarded to a teenage magician.
Not bad for a kid who, at age 12, started off dabbling with magic by performing finger-twisting rope and card tricks.
“It was indescribable,” he said of the news of receiving the scholarship.
Between December of last year and this May, Temaat interned at the Wonderground nightclub in Las Vegas; earned the title “East Coast Teen Champion of Magic” by winning first place in a national stage competition; won a people’s choice award and a second place finish in the adult stage contest at the 38th annual Winter Carnival of Magic, held in Tennessee. Later this month, he will be competing in a youth stage show in Norfolk, Va. Next year, he hopes to attend a seven-month workshop in Spain.
‘World of happiness’
Everything Temaat does is touched by his magic.
For example, waitresses at local restaurants are often tipped by Temaat in a special way -- a folded dollar bill emerges from behind a card in his hand.
And while attending prom at Frontenac High School, Temaat swept a length of black silk around his escort, Rachel Herring, after both had dawned from a car. Before the black silk was held up, she was seen wearing a black dress. Within seconds, once the black silk was removed, she was sporting a flashy red dress. The unique magical moment was caught on camera and can now be viewed on YouTube.
Prom was a rare social occasion for Temaat in a life where there are few such moments.
“Being a teenage magician is a little bit tough because I’m traveling all over the country,” he said. “I see a lot of people, but it’s hard to get into a meaningful relationship or friendship back home.”
To make matters tougher, not only does Temaat work to be a top-notch magician, he also finds himself taking dancing lessons so he can liven up his magical acts. He has to be a good speaker, showman and advertiser so he can sell himself and land paying gigs, a booking agent, his own choreographer -- everything.
“Sometimes you have to be your own groupie,” he said.
While Temaat can do it all -- escapes, levitations, severing the assistant in the box, manipulation routines, etc. -- his first love is floating canes. Search for “Jay Temaat” on YouTube, and you’ll see his act using these glowing, floating canes. It’s truly a unique sight.
“My goal is to travel around the world and to lure people into my world of happiness through magic,” he said. “Really, a goal is a dream with a deadline, and all dreams can be reached.”
After traveling the world, he would eventually like to settle down with a stage show on the Vegas strip.
“That’s what I’m working on now,” Temaat said.
And when that happens, he said, he’d like to do something special to all those who have helped him along the way. And not just family and close friends, he said, but others. Like, for example, “the custodians at Frontenac High School who let me in to practice my magic on the stage at midnight. Or (the school principal), who was so supportive of my magic. All those people who have helped me get to where I am today will have front-row seats in Vegas.”
For more information about Jay Temaat, visit www.jaytemaat.com.