2017-07-21 / Editorials

Artists’ greatest act: teaching others

The loss of two creative titans just a day apart has left Ventura County’s arts community reeling.

John Slade of Cal Lutheran’s Kingsmen Shakespeare Company and Edward Francis, co-founder of the Thousand Oaks Philharmonic, were two very different men, but they had one important thing in common: a passion for sharing their talents with others.

For Slade, who died July 7 following a hit-and-run crash on the 101 Freeway, it was acting in, directing and writing plays. For Francis, who succumbed to cancer July 6, it was classical music, both performing and writing.

Their impressive skills made them stand out from the pack in their respective fields. But what made them truly rare was their desire to pass those skills on to the next generation of actors and musicians.

Though Slade and Francis enjoyed a lifetime’s worth of professional success, what really brought them joy was teaching.

Both men spent countless hours away from their families so that others might one day experience the rush that comes with bringing a packed house to its feet.

It’s a unique individual who reaches beyond personal glory to give others their turn in the spotlight. Slade and Francis were this way, say their friends and students.

Michael Arndt, Kingsmen’s founder and artistic director, was working closely with Slade as they prepped the company’s production of “Julius Caesar,” which opens tonight. He saw firsthand the connection Slade forged with the performers he was guiding.

“No matter what the role was, John spent time with someone; he spent time talking with someone and really listening,” Arndt told the Acorn.

Francis was just as deeply invested in his students. In May, he was on Facebook urging Sean Chen—an Oak Park High grad who’s become an award-winning classical pianist—to consider becoming a teacher. “Teaching could clearly be a parallel avenue to your performing career,” he wrote.

Last month, when Chen announced he was joining the faculty at the University of Missouri-Kansas City as an artist-inresidence, no one was prouder than Francis.

Our hearts go out to the students of Slade and Francis—we know it will be years or even decades before they’re able to perform without the loss fresh in their minds.

We hope they understand how lucky they are to have spent time under the tutelage of these men, and that some, like Chen, will be inspired to also teach others one day.

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