Abracadabra, Toll Gate students learn tricks of magic trade to make loneliness disappear
Whether it be the dazzling street magic of David Blaine, the awe-inspiring feats of Criss Angel or the daring escapes and illusions of David Copperfield, these famous magicians have left their mark on audiences throughout the country and around the world.
Warwick resident and professional magician Tom Rose has been leaving a different mark on local high school students by teaching them more than just magic. For the past four years, Rose has taught a magic class at Toll Gate High School. After graduating from the class, students volunteer in the community by performing at hospitals, nursing homes and senior centers in the area.
Tim Hayes, a teacher at Toll Gate who runs the Basic Urban Sociology course, teamed up with Rose several years ago to provide seniors the volunteer opportunity.
“There are few opportunities in high school to involve a service-learning project as part of the curriculum,” Hayes said. “The students get real world experience and learn things outside of the classroom that I can’t give them.”
In addition to learning magic, Hayes said students also learn about the centers they’ll be visiting and the best way to volunteer their time.
“The original purpose was to have students learn how to volunteer and benefit their community as part of a volunteering portfolio,” he said. “Many of the students continue on over the summer and the organizations have been happy to have them over the years.”
Hayes said he often receives letters about how much the people at the facility enjoyed the magic.
“The retirement homes don’t get a lot of younger visitors, so this brightens up their day,” Hayes said. “They like the energy.”
Hayes said the Basic Urban Sociology course, which is in its 10th year, consists of 30 students, all of who are involved in different service-learning projects. Currently, six students are taking part in Rose’s magic class. He is teaching two classes, with three students each, as well as serving as a mentor for Patrick Worrel, who is doing his senior project on the history of magic. Classes were initially held twice a week in the beginning of the course and are now once a week, usually lasting 45 minutes to an hour. Depending on the difficulty, Rose tries to teach three to five tricks per class. Starting at the end of February, students will go out and perform where needed in the community for one to two hours every Wednesday through the end of May.
Students taking the course this year include James Paolino, Kailen Browning, Tayla Francis, Kate Leach, Liza Brown and Stephanie Pompei.
“I love it,” Francis said. “My favorite part is watching the tricks.”
Browning said once you learn how to perform a trick; it changes the whole perspective of it.
“It takes away the mystery, but it makes it simpler,” she said.
Rose said students receive eight or nine weeks of training before going out to perform.
“Each student specializes in three or four tricks because they enjoy them and can perfect them,” he said.
Rose starts with basic tricks, and as they get tougher, he combines more elements, which include misdirection, sleight of hand, illusion, mechanical, which features a machine or hand-made item in the trick, and automatic, which is performed without any sleights or misdirection.
“The card tricks are difficult to learn, but the more you practice, then you’re able to add to it and put your own twist on it,” Paolino said.
Rose said students learn approximately 30 tricks throughout the course, which include mind reading, cups and balls, the magic coloring book, bolted aces, and vanishing water, to name a few.
Rose, who owns and operates Tom Rose Associates, a sales consulting company, has been performing magic for more than 30 years. He joined the International Brotherhood of Magicians in 1987 as a professional magician; however, he says he’s never once charged admission for a show.
“I do it for fun and to make magic,” he said, adding that some of his students do go on to become professional magicians and make money performing.
Since 1987, Rose has been performing magic for a host of local charities, hospitals, nursing homes and senior centers throughout Rhode Island. He said he first got into magic when he was 23.
“I worked for a sales company at the time, Englehardt Industries, and they sent me out to their sales office in Skokie, Illinois for about six months,” he said. “I didn’t know anyone out there, so my friend’s father came out and took me to dinner at the Ivanhoe Restaurant, and there was a magician performing close-up magic at the bar. He was retired but had done a lot of work in London. I just sat in front of him for about two hours and that’s when I decided I wanted to become a magician.”
As good as he is, Rose says some of his students are even better.
“The students love the program so much that they often help out after they graduate,” he said. “Several of my former students actually substitute for me when I can’t make it to a class.”
Two such magicians that have filled that role are Dan and Andrew Cipolla, ages 16 and 14 respectively.
“The brothers were home-schooled but they got permission to take my class at Toll Gate and after they graduated, they became professional magicians,” said Rose, who met the Cipollas five years ago when he served as a judge for the finals of New England Performs, a local talent contest. “It was being held at Toll Gate and the Cipollas were in the audience. Afterward, they came up to me and asked if they could learn magic.”
After graduating from Rose’s class, the brothers went on to learn from some of the top professional magicians in the world. They are currently members of four professional magic societies in New England and can be seen performing every other Friday night at Dan’s Place, located at 880 Victory Highway in West Greenwich, where they’ve been for a year. On the Fridays they aren’t performing at Dan’s, the brothers perform at the Olde Theater Diner, at 33 Sandy Bottom Road in Coventry.
“We walk around from table to table as entertainment,” Dan said.
The duo has also performed for the New England Patriots, joining six other magicians to put on a show for the team and more than 1,000 audience members.
“Jarvis Green loved it so much that he called them up for next year,” Rose said. “They also performed for Patrick Pass’s daughter’s birthday party.”
Dan said his fascination with magic started when he found an old magic set in the closet and began doing it for fun.
“Then I saw Tom at New England Performs and asked him to teach me magic,” he said. “My brother got into it and now we perform professionally and make money at it.”
Dan said he enjoys performing for others, especially if it lifts their spirits.
“It’s really good to bless people every day and put a smile on their face,” he said. “You can make their night just by doing a trick for someone.”
The Cipollas have been quite successful, including a period where they were booked at an Applebee’s restaurant every Wednesday for 10 months straight.
“My niece was a manager there and she asked if I could come down and do a performance, so I told her I’ll send a couple of my guys,” Rose said.
The Cipollas show no signs of slowing down. Andrew is currently preparing to audition for the Stars Tomorrow Society of National Magicians in Las Vegas.
“A lot of practice is involved to perfect the tricks and your stage presence,” he said. “I practiced one trick with umbrellas for three months. Once you get the moves down, it gets easier.”
Soon, Rose’s students will be ready to go out on their own, but first he will take them to Cambridge, Mass., to see a professional magic show up close.
For their first outing, students will perform table magic for the residents of Tamarisk Assisted Living while they eat lunch on Feb. 29 at noon.
Rose praised Hayes and the work his students are doing.
“In these hard times, it is very refreshing to see that the high schools are trying to teach their students to give back to the community that supports their education,” he said.