Former Lee students works magic at "America's Got Talent'

Posted 9/16/18

Shin Lim, the first performer to advance to the finals of NBC's 2018 "America's Got Talent," is a former, aspiring Lee University musician. Prior to a degree in music,  magic …

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Former Lee students works magic at "America's Got Talent'


Shin Lim, the first performer to advance to the finals of NBC's 2018 "America's Got Talent," is a former, aspiring Lee University musician. Prior to a degree in music,  magic got in the way, as well as world-wide acclaim.

After graduating from high school, the native of British Columbia, Canada, enrolled in the School of Music at Lee University  to pursue a degreee in music. He was a double major in piano and telecommunications.

While at Lee, he was a member of the ensemble Choral Union.

In 2011, at the age of 20, Lim was diagnosed with carpal tunnel. As the Lee School of Music required him to spend up to 20 hours a week on piano practice, he was forced to choose between music or his entertainment career. 

 He opted to stick to his passion for magic, taking a sabbatical from Lee, and eventually dropping out to return to his parents' home.

That difficult decision led to his rise in international  magic competition, as he worked to perfect his skills.  He is now a top contender for the 2018 AGT title, perhaps the world's most visible stage for all types of talent.

Unlike many AGT competitors, Shin Lim is not an unknown. The Boston, Mass., resident, is widely known on the world's stage for his use of card manipulation and sleight of hand

He is known for elaborate close-up card magic routines whereby he stays silent with the tricks set to music, including his award-winning acts "The Dream Act" and "52 Shades of Red." He admits he  is self-taught, having learned most of his skills from watching YouTube. He has also shared some of his techniques on YouTube.

After being discovered around 2012, Lim  toured internationally, and won the 2015 Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques in Card Magic. His appearances on Penn & Teller: Fool Us led to more international fame, and now to "America's Got Talent."

Lim is the second of three children of Singapore-born parents. He was born in British Columbia, Canada, where his dad was completing his post graduate studies.

At the age of 2, he returned to Singapore with his family. When he was 11, the family returned to Acton, Mass, where Lim received his education at  Acton-Boxborough Regional High School. After his secondary education, he came to Cleveland, and Lee University.

As early as 9 years old, Lim showed an interest in music. His grandmother had originally given him a violin, but he became frustrated. He reportedly smashed the violin after a practice session, and switched to the piano.

Alongside music, Lim was interested in magic during his younger years. His older brother, Yi, had shown him a simple card trick, and when Lim asked him how it was done, his brother told him to look up it up on YouTube.

 Lim delved into the videos available there and taught himself several tricks. As he started to improve his skills, developed his own tricks, and used YouTube as a platform to show his performances and technique.

Lim continued to develop tricks and produce YouTube videos of his magic, as well as developing tricks to be sold to interested fans.  Lim describes his approach to magic as more an artistic show rather than to trick people.

"I’m trying to change the outlook on card magic — to make it more artistic, more visual," he said. He has incorporated his past musical aspirations into his acts, putting nearly all his tricks to music while staying silent during the tricks. 

He participated in the 2012 Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques (International Federation of Magic Societies) World Championship, where he finished in sixth place. At this point, Lim was unsure of his career, but was contacted in 2013 by an agent who had seen his performance from the World Championship and offered him a tour across China. Lim agreed, but in addition to extending his routine to include 20 minutes worth of tricks, he dropped any narration from his routine as he did not speak any Chinese. 

In 2015, he won the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques World Championship for Close-up Card Magic. Contrary to speculation, there was no million dollar prize, but there was potential to be seen by producers looking for talent. He has also been part of The Illusionists, a touring Broadway-style magic show that features a rotating cast of magicians and illusionists.

Lim appeared twice on Penn & Teller: Fool Us, once in 2015 (shortly after winning the World Championship) and again in 2017. Both times, his tricks successfully fooled hosts Penn & Teller.

 Penn Jillette described Lim as part of a third-wave of magicians, bridging the gap between spectacle performances such as David Copperfield and Doug Henning, and the reactivity aspects of magicians like David Blaine.

 Lim's first appearance on Fool Us, uploaded to YouTube, went viral and has achieved over 50 million views. It led to his second appearance on the show by invitation. His performance in 2015 led to a number of other invitations to perform, including the House of Magic in Macau, China, which Lim considered to be "the best gig in magic."  His special YouTube video "Pray for Paris" performance of his "52 Shades of Red" in tribute to the victims of the Nov. 2015 Paris attacks, drew in more attention to his skills.

Around March, 2016, Lim injured two tendons of his left thumb and received surgery. He feared  he would lose the ability to perform, but recovered after intense therapy, without losing any of the skill required to pull off his full routines.

Lim has now reached the finals of the 13th season of "America's Got Talent."

Lim is engaged to Casey Thomas, an Australian girl whom he proposed to on Aug. 20, 2017, in front of over 2,000 people during a magic show at the House of Magic in Macau. 


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