Many folks at the USC Marshall School of Business have called upon Scott Smith to work his magic on their crashed computers or misbehaving operating systems.
But not as many realize that they can call upon Smith to work his magic. Period.
Scott Smith — whose official title is information technology support consultant/engineer — is a magician. A card-carrying member of The Academy of Magical Arts at Hollywood’s famed Magic Castle. And he’s been practicing since he was a kid.
I do tech by day, magic by night.
“I do tech by day, magic by night,” he said.
Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, he was smitten early on with sleight of hand and card tricks he first saw on TV. Then he and a friend found a book of card tricks in the library and his fate was sealed.
He began hanging around Bert Wheeler’s Hollywood Magic shop (“… where the real magicians hung out!”) and was such a keen student he was asked to stick around and demonstrate tricks to customers. And presto! Just like that, he began what was in essence a paid apprenticeship in magic.
He eventually got to college, attending California State University, Northridge to study radio/TV/film. Like so many curious, restless sorts, he ended up in technology, working for a variety of early software companies, learning his trade from the ground up, much like his magic.
But while he switched careers until he found a good fit at USC, the magic was constant.
In 2000, he decided he was good enough to go professional. His first step was getting his membership at the Magic Castle. That requires an audition before other magicians, a nerve-racking process for anyone. But Smith, trained by the best and with years of experience behind him, aced it and was welcomed into the small fraternity of professional magicians.
Over lunch at the Castle, Smith is in his element. He knows everyone from the valets and waiters to the current president. There’s even a photo of him on the wall, not far from the signed photo of Tippi Hedren and a poster for Siegfried and Roy. He met his wife there in 2004. He’s held both administrative and volunteer roles — each year he joins the crew putting together the annual Academy of Magical Arts Awards show (The Oscars of magic). This year the ceremony will be held at the Saban Theatre in May.
At USC Marshall, believe it or not, his abilities have yielded a distinct advantage. Magic, it turns out, is the perfect icebreaker. He is often hired as the strolling entertainment for the school’s classes and functions.
He recently was hired to perform at an annual Christmas party. And each fall he attends the opening reception of the Executive MBAs’ residential week.
“Magic opens them up a bit,” he said. “It gets them talking and laughing with each other.
“Working at USC has given me the freedom to do magic when I want and for whom I want,” he said.
And it’s helped his role in information technology.
“You have to read people for I.T.,” he said. “And you have to read people for magic. Working at Marshall has sharpened those skills.”