Last Friday, Albert Chang PO ’14 held ‘CODA: An Evening of Magic, Mentalism, and Music’ in the Pomona SCC Social Room. Chang began performing magic in middle school, and several years later, began to perform mentalism.
When Chang was in elementary school, his father bought him a magic set. He expected the magic set to be actual magic, but was disappointed when he realized that they were just tricks.
“I kind of tossed aside magic for ten years,” Chang said.
However, in middle school, Chang’s friend brought a magic set to school and showed him the tricks on the bus.
“After that, I got really, really into magic,” Chang said.
“I would practice in front of the mirror for four or five hours a day, just practicing the same tricks over and over again,” he explained. Most of his tricks were card tricks at this point.
After about a year, Chang was finally able to fool his parents. Chang did cards exclusively for almost two years.
Chang started seeing videos by Derren Brown, a British psychologist illusionist. Chang clarified that Brown is not a magician, but a psychological illusionist because he focuses on understanding human behavior and influencing it. This was the beginning of Chang’s interest in mentalism.
Chang was drawn to mentalism because it seemed to be more believable than card tricks.
“I was much more into this, because… mentalism is more about reading minds and influencing people. It’s more believable, and that was the draw.”
Chang first displayed his mentalism in last year’s Pomona’s Got Talent. He won the competition. Chang said that after many of his performances he reveals the machinery behind the mentalism.
“I blew your mind and now I’m going to explain how I did it,” Chang explained of his approach to talking to the audience.
During CODA, Chang revealed how he was able to read facial and verbal cues for one exercise, in which he had four volunteers draw pictures while he played a piece of music. Using these cues, he was able to guess what picture belonged to which participant. Laura Skow PO ’15 was a volunteer in CODA for that trick.
“I didn’t know how he did it. Usually I can figure out what is happening, but in this I couldn’t,” Skow said. Skow was also a volunteer for McVicar the Trickster, a magician who performed at the SCC Open House. Skow said that she was able to understand what was happening when McVicar was performing.
“It was much more impressive how [Chang] did it. That was a lot a cooler.”
Chang described mentalism as a mix of actual psychology and trickery, and the amount of actual trickery is not clear-cut.
“The point is for the audience is to determine how much they believe.”
Chang is also very interested in music and is an active member of Pomona’s music community. He began playing the piano at age five and the violin at age seven. He is the concertmaster of Pomona’s orchestra and is also involved in chamber music.
Chang played the violin during CODA, where he tried to mostly utilize music and mentalism rather than magic. He also has an electric violin, which allows him to dabble in pop/rock.
“Both [magic/mentalism and music] are really huge influences in my life, my two primary passions outside of academics, so I’ve always wanted to combine the two together to separate myself from other magicians,” he said.
Chang said he wants to do more shows at Pomona, especially in larger venues. He held CODA to gauge the interest in magic and mentalism at Pomona, and he was surprised by the interest and attendance at CODA.
Chang plans to hold one show per semester. He said that all his shows should be free, although he is considering doing a charity event. He said that there is difficulty in doing multiple shows, because many magicians do the same magic routines for a while as they tour. However, Chang will be unable to tour and will often be performing to the same audience.
Chang was recently admitted into the Junior Magic Castle program, a competitive magic club in Los Angeles that only accepts 25 percent of applicants. According to Chang, the Junior Magic Castle program has been a launching pad for many famous magicians in the past. Chang said that he hopes to meet more amateur magicians through Junior Magic Castle.
Chang said that he hopes to continue performing at Pomona, but he does not see a professional career in magic or mentalism.
“My dream is always to do this as a profession, but I know that that’s not feasible—that’s why I’m going to Pomona. I think I will try to do more with it,” Chang said.