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Home Magic History Norm Nielsen
Norm Nielsen Print E-mail

Norm Nielsen’s “Musical Magic Act” is one of the most memorable and most beautiful acts in magic. He is one of the few performers that has been able to evoke a true sense of “wonder and enchantment” in numerous audiences around the world. A native from Kenosha, Wisconsin, his interest in magic started at a young age after watching his barber perform a few cigarette tricks. “I became his friend," he says, “and went with him to the bars and watched him perform over and over again. And, he never told me how the tricks were done, but I eventually caught on....” A few years later, he had the opportunity to go to his first magic convention in White Water, Wisconsin, were he saw Neil Foster perform. Seeing this magician was such an inspiration that he soon went to Los Angeles and applied to the Chavez School of Magic.

Attending the Chavez School was not easy. After busing tables and working at a local factory, he had to spend five hours a day, five days a week, at the Chavez School. It was there that students practiced and perfected sleights and routines with cigarettes, thimbles, balls, cards and anything that the course prescribed. He finally graduated in 1953.

Excited, and with his act prepared, he was ready “to take the world by storm”. The first thing h e did was to go see an agent in Hollywood who told him: “You are magician #453 with this Chavez routine and very skilled at it. Now you must begin to throw out the act you have learned. Develop something of your own.” This indeed was the best piece of advice anyone had given him. The School had given him the required technical skills, which is one of the ingredients for success. Yet he still had to develop stage presence and something “original” in order to take him to the top.

Since then, he did magic with doves, and various manipulation acts! One of his first ideas was to make a trumpet toot as it floated in thin air. He eventually rejected it, as the audience would not be able to see the keys move as they played the magical instrument. This led to the creation of the floating violin, whose moving bow was sure to be seen. He made several prototypes, and it took almost two years before it was ready. It took several more years to perfect the illusion to its current state. This is one of the most memorable moments in magic.

Most of his Musical Magic Act is described by John Fisher in the book Paul Daniels and the Story of Magic: “This warm, engaging performer weaves a very special spell of wonder as first a flute disintegrates into silver dust the moment it touches his lips. Coins appear mysteriously at his fingertips, to be dropped melodically upon what resembles a vertical xylophone, down which they tinkle with a distinctive m elody of their own, faster and faster until his hands are overflowing. The whole sequence has that Cartier stamp of dazzle and class. Nielsen’s speciality, however, is his floating violin, rightly considered to be one of the most beautiful illusions in magic. The instrument takes on a bewitching life of its own as it soars, spins, and plays hide-and-seek behind a silk scarf in Nielsen’s hands. Balanced precariously across the strings, the bow moves tantalizingly to and fro to play hauntingly of their own accord. In a last attempt to tame the instrument, the magician throws the scarf high into the air. In less than a second, the violin literally melts away. Nielsen walks forward to acknowledge his applause; from the wings the violin enters at ground level and makes its way to his side. As Nielsen takes his bow, the violin dips the head of his fingerboard as its own cheeky mark of respect. Seldom has a magician endowed a supposedly inanimate object with such telling personality.” 

This act has been on of the most sought after variety acts in Europe. Mr. Nielsen has worked in London, Helsinki, Istanbul, Tokyo, Caracas, Santiago, Las Vegas, Sydney, Montecarlo, etc. Indeed, he has worked in almost every top nightclub in the world, including the Crazy Horse Saloon in Paris, where he performed on and off for six years.

He has received numerous awards as well: Stage Magician of the Year - Magic Castle (1970), Magician of the Year - Magic Castle (1978), Jack Gwynne Award (1977, 1988), Chavez Award 1991, Golden Mandrake Award - Paris (1991), Performing Fellowship - Magic Castle (1994), Magician’s Favorite Magician CBS-TV (1995). Lately, he has been honored in various events and conventions. His latest award was the Milbourne Christopher Masters Award (2009), during the SAM National Convention dedicated to him.

Apart from his performing career, he is the owner of Nielsen Magic, his magic business since 1956. In the early years, he learned how to make magic props from Theo Bamberg, also known as Okito. He was given permission by Okito to manufacture all items of his line, including the beautiful Okito Checker Cabinet. He is also the manufacturer of the high-quality Nielsen line of products, which include among others, Vanishing Bottles, Rubber Doves and Manipulation Cards.

Magic performing and manufacturing have given meaning to his life, until nineteen years ago, when he discovered a new passion: Magic stone-lithographs or posters. It all started with a gift: A friend gave him a Fu Manchu 1/2-sheet poster -- all falling apart and in pieces. He had this one restored and mounted and “it seemed to ‘grow’ on him.” Later, someone else offered him a Frakson poster. Then came his third poster: a 3-sheet Carter “Priestess of Delphi”. After that he has literally become “possessed” and motivated to obtain every paper sample he can. His passion has come to such point, that in seven short years he has gathered one of the largest c ollection of magic stone-lithographs in the world! He is also perhaps one of the most knowledgeable persons in that field. Posters of Houdini, Herrmann, Kellar, Thurston, Leroy, grace his collection. And what is most amazing, 70% of his collection is all on display! Visiting his collection allows us to touch a vital part of magic history. You can visit his website at:

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