An old show-biz adage suggests you should never work with children or animals. Red River College grad Ryan Price apparently didn’t get the message: he works with both, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
The local children’s magician and entertainer started out 10 years ago doing magic tricks and making balloon animals while working towards his Business Administration diploma at Red River College. While his fellow students did homework or enjoyed a meal on their lunch breaks, Price would walk over to visit nearby toy stores or magic shops.
“As a kid I had a magic set and I was always interested in entertaining,” says the 2007 grad. “But I didn’t really get into it until I was in college, when I saw a magician perform there, and thought that was something I could attempt.”
Going from dabbling in magic to making it his career was a very quick process for Price. Within a year he was a full-time magician for hire, doing a couple hundred shows a year — mostly at birthday parties and daycares — thanks to a website he built right after he graduated.
Price has since built himself a niche market, creating and performing assembly programs at schools, daycares and libraries around Manitoba and in nearby provinces. His shows incorporate an educational element, with themes such as A Reading Adventure, Wacky Science Show, and Going Green, which focuses on recycling and protecting the environment.
Each show is different. For example, before he performs the reading-themed show for kids in kindergarten to Grade 6, he finds out some of the books they’ve read lately, so he can weave them into his show, delighting the young spectators.
Price says he enjoys bringing the educational message, as well as the joy, to students.
“When a teacher says something 100 times, they might not think about it. But when someone else says it in a different way, they will get excited and be like, ‘Oh yeah, my teacher was saying that!’ It brings it to a different standpoint for them.”
The kids also are impressed with Price’s furry and feathered friends, who play a starring role in his performances. While his white rabbit, Simon, is fairly tame, Lily the macaw can occasionally be unpredictable.
“Sometimes Lily wants to just take off. A couple of times she has flown around the gym, to the delight and fright of some of the kids,” he laughs.
Price has learned to just roll with it when these things happen. The self-proclaimed natural goofball loves to make kids laugh and has been working on incorporating more and more comedy into his shows.
While the Business Administration program doesn’t exactly offer magician training, as a self-employed business owner, Price finds he does put many of the skills he learned at RRC to use, especially thanks to his major in Marketing.
“More than just the actual education, the program has given me more of a drive to better myself. I’ve invested time and money in learning the craft and promoting myself,” he explains.
With the summer wrapped up, Price is happy to be working in the schools again, but he’s also continuing to use his marketing skills to broaden his reach as an entertainer. He’s currently working on booking shows with fairs and festivals across Canada, with a goal of touring across the country next summer.
When he’s not making kids laugh, learn and wonder ‘how’d he do that?’ he spends time building and maintaining his three websites, and creating promotional materials such as brochures and other direct-mail pieces, which he writes and often designs himself.
Price loves the flexibility of being his own boss, but he knows it takes a lot of effort to keep his career going.
“You need to know every aspect of the business. It’s important to get your name out there — you can have a great show, but if nobody knows about it, you’re not going to be [doing] that show anywhere.”
Price’s marketing skills have also helped him recognize the importance of brand consistency, he says. He has separated his two target markets — the school shows and the birthday parties — by maintaining two completely separate websites, www.schoolshowscanada.com and www.ryanpricemagic.com.
For the larger shows, Price’s soon-to-be-wife Shannon (they’ll wed on Sept. 20) steps in as his assistant. His immediate family has also been supportive of his unique career, although not everybody he meets is as understanding.
“When I tell people what I do, they used to ask if I was going to get a real job,” he laughs. “Or they’d say, ‘No, I mean what do you do for a living?’ People don’t realize you can make a living at it.”
Learn more about RRC’s Business Administration program.