Student illusionist mixes magic with social life

Megan Hix

In between classes, radio-television-film freshman Giancarlo Bernini  hangs out with his pledge brothers, studies in his dorm room and occasionally, reads minds.

Bernini is a magician and illusionist who performs street magic and more formal shows on campus. Whether it’s card tricks or more complicated ruses such as escaping from a sealed box or magically swapping places with another person, Bernini said he’s constantly learning new techniques.

“[Practicing magic] is like taking another class or another two classes,” Bernini said. “It is a huge time commitment just to keep yourself from getting rusty.”  

Since coming to UT, Bernini said magic has helped him make friends and meet new people. Biology junior Drew Gandhi, who lives in Bernini’s residence hall, calls his tricks “mind-blowing.”

“The first time I met [Bernini], he was in the lobby doing tricks,” Gandhi said. “After every single one, people were like, ‘Whoa, what’s going on?’”

After learning a simple card trick from his father as a kid, Bernini started studying magic. He soon took his talents to a local cancer clinic to perform for patients. Now, he said he performs magic professionally instead of getting a “stereotypical college job.”

“Magic isn’t about fooling people. It’s about making sure they’re entertained and have a good experience,” Bernini said. “For me, it feels good to know that people are really enjoying what I’m doing.”

Bernini, whose dorm room is decorated with Harry Potter memorabilia, magic textbooks and props, said, while he hasn’t decided on a career path, he would love to pursue magic professionally after graduation.

“Once you do [magic] for a while, you tend to look at the world in a very different way,” Bernini said. “When I walk into a restaurant, I see a spoon and don’t think, ‘Hey, that’s a spoon,’ I think, ‘That’s something that I can bend with my mind.’”

Bernini showcased his talents last month at Imagine, a show hosted by his fraternity, Beta Upsilon Chi. Steven Wilbanks, a finance senior and BYX president, said Bernini often uses magic in his daily life but doesn’t let it overshadow his friendly personality.

“He loves to get to know people, so I think he uses it as a way to start conversations and connect with people,” Wilbanks said. “I think BYX is better with diverse talents, skills and backgrounds. It wouldn’t be the same without each member or without [Bernini].”

Bernini is also involved at the University Catholic Center, Christian apologetics group Ratio Christi and UT’s magic club. He said he tries to mix magic with his extracurricular activities as much as possible.  

“I’ve made a lot of friends that started through magic and these friendships have grown so far beyond that,” Bernini said. “A lot of good, solid friendships have developed out of a conversation that started with a card trick.”

As much as magic is a part of Bernini’s life, he said before college, he sometimes struggled to be seen as more than the magic guy. Now, he said he’s happy people know about his passion and are interested in that part of his life.

“Recently I’ve understood [magic] is a huge part of who I am, and when people call me the magician, it’s not that they’re focusing on a skill I have,” Bernini said. “They just understand that it’s a part of who I am, and they like that about me.”