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Local instructor uses magic tricks to teach life skills

Mar 28, 2017 11:18AM ● Published by Tori LaRue

Jack Fenn, 9, watches as his magic instructor, Mont Dutson, performs a trick at the J.L. Sorenson Recreation Center in Herriman. (Tori La Rue/City Journals)

Gallery: Local instructor uses magic tricks to teach life skills [3 Images] Click any image to expand.

By Tori La Rue | tori@mycityjournals.com

A Herriman magician started sharing his expertise with local children in a new program where magic tricks aren’t the only guise.

“The whole magic course is an illusion,” said Mont Dutson, the instructor who’s known as “Mont Magic” among his students and audiences. “The idea is, let’s get kids out of the screens and technology because they are losing interpersonal skills, so that was the motivating force.”

The magic school course is intended to teach students to be respectful, prepared, enthusiastic, confident, humble, creative, authentic and giving while also teaching them eight close-up magic tricks.

“There’s just something about when you do a magic trick and hook it with a thought,” Dutson said. “People remember magic because it is impressive and entertaining, and so you hook something onto it, like these types of life lessons, and they’ll remember that, too.”

By the end of the eight-week course, students can make it appear as though they can balance a playing card on another playing card without any strings or safety nets, restore a toothpick from broken to whole, change the signage on a document while someone is holding it and perform other basic tricks.

“It’s amazing to learn something that can make all of your friends like, ‘Whoa,’” said McKay Peterson, 10, who recently finished Dutson’s course at the J.L. Sorenson Recreation Center in Herriman.

And although he enjoyed learning the tricks, McKay said “life lessons” were the best things he learned from Dutson.

“I learned that if you are respectful, then you can be nice to other people, and it will make everyone happy that you are not a jerk,” he said. “And then creativity helps you with your mind, so you could learn more.”

McKay and four other boys were the first students to take magic lessons from Dutson at the J.L. Sorenson Recreation Center. Their session wrapped up in March.

Dutson’s Salt Lake School of Magic uses the “Discover Magic” curriculum created by Michael Ammar, a world-renowned magician who won the Gold medal in the World Sleight-of-Hand Championship in Switzerland for his close-up magic tricks.

Dutson, a magician of 30 years, and his wife, Chris, formerly a teacher for gifted and talented students, brought the classes to the Marv Jensen Recreation Center at the end of 2015 and expanded the program to J.L. Sorenson Recreation Center in Herriman in January 2017.

They said they plan to expand the program to the Holladay Lions Recreation Center later this year if there’s enough interest in that area.

Although their program is new, it is already gaining national attention. The couple won the “Best New School Directors” award at the Discover Magic conference in Vegas. There are about 100 chapters worldwide.

“We didn’t expect to win anything because our program is very new, and we don’t have very many kids at our sessions yet, so it was just an amazing honor,” Chris Dutson said.

Mont Dutson said his favorite part about teaching magic is seeing children’s confidence increase. One student came to magic school with hunched shoulders and a whispered tone, but he didn’t end magic school that way, he said.

“It looked like almost each time he came back he would stand up a little straighter and be a little more interactive, and his parents told us they were amazed at what he had done,” he said.

The same boy went on to perform a magic show for a family party, which gave him more confidence, Mont Dutson said.

Mont Dutson’s goal whenever possible is to help his students get in front of audiences to perform their magic tricks. Learning magic is two-fold, he said: learning the tricks and learning how to present.

A section of every two-hour class with “Mont Magic” involves performing for the class. Mont Dutson also invites his students to attend his live performances at libraries and perform one of the tricks they have learned. So far, four of his students have taken him up on this offer.

When he’s not doing library performances or teaching magic school, Mont Dutson can often be found doing magic tricks at birthday parties and in school assemblies. One of his students performed at his first birthday party gig a few months ago, and Mont Dutson jokingly told him that they’re now competitors.

To find “Mont Magic” shows at Salt Lake County Libraries, view the library calendar at calendar.slcolibrary.org. To learn more about the Dutsons’ magic school or sign up for classes, visit saltlakecityschoolofmagic.com/index.html

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