News Column

Francis retiring after 39 years of service

May 7, 2014

By Jermaine Pigee, The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa

May 07--Ted Francis promised himself he would not cry during Tuesday's spring band concert at Edward Stone Middle School.

But once his students thanked him and showered him with gifts, such as a tambourine and tickets to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Francis could not hide his emotions.

"I'm deeply touched," he told the audience as he wiped his eyes. "It's been a pleasure and an honor to work with your kids, and I will miss them."

After being a band director in the Burlington School District for 39 years, Francis is retiring at the end of the school year.

He led his final concert Tuesday evening, which featured Edward Stone Middle School students -- and some special guests.

"There is a time in your life when you feel like there are some things you want to do yet with the rest of your life," the 61-year-old Francis said. "I have a lot of other interests and activities I'm involved in, and I'd like to devote more time to those."

Some of the activities include building and flying radio-controlled planes, playing classical guitar and bird watching.

"I also like to read," Francis said. "I want an opportunity to travel as well."

Francis began his career at Horace Mann Middle School in 1975 and stayed there until a fire closed the school in 2006. He then transferred to James Madison Middle School for six years before moving to Edward Stone Middle School when it opened in 2012.

He spent his entire career as a band director working with elementary and middle school students in the Burlington School District.

"At this level, everything you do is so new to the kids, and they get so excited about it," Francis said.

"It's a time in their musical progression where they quickly move from a beginner to a very confident, proficient player by the eighth-grade.

"I've just really enjoyed working with this age group."

During the concert, Francis' two adult children joined seventh- and eighth-grade students on stage for a rendition of "March from First Suite for Military Band."

"My kids surprised me over the weekend and showed up for my final concert," Francis said. "Both of them miss playing now that they are out of college. I thought it would be a nice touch to include them in this final concert."

Both of his children were among his students at Horace Mann Middle School.

"This is meaningful for us too because we were students of his at one point," said Allison Francis, who made the trip from Dallas to perform with her father. "It's definitely a nice tribute."

Allison Francis, 27, played the French horn on stage Tuesday evening while her father conducted the performance.

"I think it's been a great, long career for him," she said. "He is really going out with a bang."

Craig Francis, 24, made the trip from St. Paul, Minnesota, to play the trombone during the concert.

"It's pretty exciting," he said. "It means a lot for us to play in his last concert since we went though the middle school with him. It's pretty special for him."

Jacob Davis, the Aldo Leopold Middle School band director, also is one of Francis' former students.

"He encouraged me to seek out as many play opportunities as possible," Davis said. "In school, he exposed me to a lot of different music I wouldn't have heard otherwise."

Without thinking, Davis said he teaches his students pretty much the same way Francis taught him.

"He will always influence me, and I trust what he is doing," he said. "I know he is a great teacher, and I want to emulate what he is doing."

During his career, Francis taught students in five different decades. Throughout that time, he has touched the lives of thousands of students.

"He cares about his job, and he cares about the kids, and you can definitely tell," Davis said. "He is a very knowledgeable musician, and he is an excellent saxophone player. He is good at his craft, and it rubs off on the students."

Maddy Morris, an Edward Stone Middle School sixth-grader, said Francis will definitely be missed.

"We love him so dearly," she said as she held her French horn.

Morris has only been playing the French horn for a year, and she credits Francis for her progression.

"He is so nice, and he has the best patience," Morris said. "He will work through everything with you, and he will make sure you are comfortable with what you are doing. He is the best band teacher we could ever ask for."


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Source: Hawk Eye, The (Burlington, IA)

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