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A magical journey

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Photo by Sammy Tillery Ty Gallenbeck is a regular performer at the Madeline Hotel in Telluride.

When Ty Gallenbeck saw David Blaine's "Street Magic" while a student in college, he was so intrigued he was determined to figure out how the world-famous magician was able to pull off his spectacular tricks. He bought a book that explained a lot of the moves he saw on TV, and he watched the DVD over and over and over again. Now he has a lot in common with David Blaine -- Ty, too, is a professional magician who recently closed out the winter season in Telluride and is on a short break before his shows resume in June.

Ty specializes in close-up illusions like those used by Blaine, but over the years he's developed his own style. He experimented with a number of illusions but landed on card magic as his favorite way to perform. He says there's something about that close-up, in-your-hands moment that captured his imagination. "Danny Ray out of Southern California was the first magician I saw do close-up work on a stage. He had the camera and the live video feed and he was doing cards for 5,000 people. That opened my eyes to that potential."

Ty tried table magic, working at restaurants in Vail and Beaver Creek, but said he felt like a "professional interrupter." With a deck of cards in hand, he'd walk up and introduce himself to every table of diners in the restaurant. If they just happened to stop in, and didn't know magic was a 'thing' at that establishment, it could seem intrusive. "It did not fit my personality, so I started looking at Telluride as an option," he said. He knew he needed a resort community within driving distance, with a lot of tourists looking for entertainment.

A random conversation with his daughter's teacher led him to the Madeline Hotel. The general manager invited Ty to do tableside magic two days before Christmas. "Everyone loved it, so we convinced him to let us do the full 60-minute show in February. In 2016 we did six shows, all very well received, and after that the Madeline opened up every Saturday to us. I bought a billboard at the Montrose Regional Airport, and from there we've grown every year."

The billboard, by the way, is a huge electronic display prominently displayed in the baggage claim area at the airport. It's hard to miss! Ty believes that billboard is one reason he has the highest ranked show in Telluride. And with nearly 200 five-star reviews on Trip Advisor, he's closing in on becoming the highest ranked show in Colorado, second only to the vaudeville show in Glenwood Springs.

"The show has become a staple for some folks who come to Telluride once or twice a year," he said. "I also get told every week, 'Oh, my gosh, that was amazing. I can't wait to see you in Vegas!' Nope, this is exactly where I want to be. It's the perfect gift; it's a dream come true.

"Creating something that people enjoy and respond to ... that's what you dream about as a performing artist," he said.

Having a regular performance schedule has polished Ty's delivery to near perfection. "The amount of refinement you get doing the exact same show that many times really dials it in," he said. "But the fun part about magic, compared to a play or something, is that you always have the variable of the audience. The people who are on the stage with you makes every show unique ... although occasionally it can make things complicated."

While most magicians have a beautiful assistant, Ty has a "beardful assistant" by the name of Nate Ware, who has served as videographer and tech assistant for seven years. It's Nate's camera work that captures Ty's sleight of hand, then displays it on a large screen for all in the room to see. To see, but not to see ... that's the essence of magic.

"Since we've been at the Madeline, Nate has become more than a videographer; he's become his own character in the show. This year we added a piece that incorporates him into the show even more, where a signed card ends up in his beard. It's a fun piece to have. He's even got his own posters."

Ty pauses to explain Nate is the reason he always uses the word "we" when he refers to the show titled "Mind Blown." "He's a huge part of not only behind-the-scenes work, but how the show works.

"When we started, our goal was to do a new show every season and we quickly realized that was impossible; there's just too much work to get to that point. So we do little tweaks here and there, and work on new pieces in the off season."

A new trick evolves very slowly, Ty said. And although some magicians may take shortcuts -- like stealing ideas from other performers -- Ty takes to heart the words of comedian Steve Martin, in his biography, "Born Standing Up."

"There's a piece where he is talking about when his show really started to take off. That's when he took out everything that was not original. I've listened to that audio book probably six to 10 times in the last year. I think there's one thing in my show right now that is not original and it came from Tommy Cooper, a magician who was on TV in the 60s or 70s. I can watch other magicians and appreciate what they do, but I'm not necessarily looking for material."

You can catch Ty's show, "Mind Blown," at the Madeline Hotel in Mountain Village most Fridays and Saturdays from June 15 to Labor Day. He's also scheduled in the Delta-Montrose Community Concert Series in spring 2020, and is available for private events.

A Delta High School graduate, Ty has a passion for working with teens. When he moved back to Delta after college, and joined the staff of Delta Christian Church, and later the Black Canyon Boys & Girls Club, he discovered that magic had the power to break down the walls kids can put up. Through magic, he's been able to connect with kids in a way that opens the door for meaningful conversation. He's now the part-time director of Delta County Young Life. While he's shifted to a smaller role, he still values being part of a group of people working together to impact students' lives.

His newest venture is writing a book, one of his New Year's resolutions for 2019. He's got the title, "Living By Faith, Not by Sleight: Trusting God When Life Gets Shuffled Up," as well as many of the essays that will go into the book.

"Everything kind of came together when I did the commencement speech for Delta High School last year," he said. "That was one of the scariest and hardest things I've ever had to do, but writing that speech helped formulate the message I want to share about life. I'm able to take all of my personal experiences, big and small, and show how they have created me as a person. I think that's how it is for all of us."

Photo by Sammy Tillery With Nate Ware zooming in on the action, every member of the audience feels like they’re part of the magic. “What is magic? Magic is life. We get to experience all of this together, and that’s the greatest magic there is,” he said.
Photo by Sammy Tillery Nate Ware is normally behind a video camera, but in recent years has taken on a bigger role in Ty’s magic show.
Photo by Sammy Tillery For most of his tricks, Ty uses a basic deck of 52 playing cards. “Sleight-of-hand relies more on the work of the magician, than a special deck which will do all the work for you,” he said.
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