2017-07-21 / On The Town

Trying to find the right notes

Students perform concert in honor of revered teacher
By Dawn Megli-Thuna


TUNEFUL GOODBYE—Above, Westlake High School junior Megan Ervin plays the piano during a tribute concert to Edward Francis, left, at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza on July 16. Francis, who died July 6, co-founded the Thousand Oaks Philharmonic in 2000. The young musicians he taught also performed July 14 at the United Methodist Church of Camarillo. TUNEFUL GOODBYE—Above, Westlake High School junior Megan Ervin plays the piano during a tribute concert to Edward Francis, left, at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza on July 16. Francis, who died July 6, co-founded the Thousand Oaks Philharmonic in 2000. The young musicians he taught also performed July 14 at the United Methodist Church of Camarillo. As the lights dimmed over the stage at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza’s Scherr Forum on Sunday afternoon, the man who had done so much to shape this performance and its performers was nowhere to be found.

Edward Francis, renowned pianist and the co-founder of the Thousand Oaks Philharmonic, died of cancer just weeks before the orchestra’s biannual Opus program.

Opus 49 went on without him. It was the philharmonic’s first show since the 61-year-old died July 6 at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica.

Young musicians who were taught and mentored by Francis played two Opus 49 shows, one at United Methodist Church in Camarillo on July 14, and another at the Scherr on July 16.


BOBBY CURTIS/Acorn Newspapers BOBBY CURTIS/Acorn Newspapers Like every other year, Francis devoted himself to making sure everyone had their musical arrangements in order. Unlike every other year, he never got to hear his students on the grand stage.

The philharmonic’s music director and conductor, John Roscigno, dedicated Sunday’s concert to his late colleague.

“It’s been a tough week,” he said. “We all have the memory of Ed Francis in our hearts tonight.”

He told the Acorn that Francis closely followed the careers of his former students, some of whom went on to study at Juilliard and the Royal Academy of Music- London.

“He was always flying out of town last minute to watch former students perform,” Roscigno said.


Ed Francis Ed Francis Francis’ mother, Alma, came to the Scherr for the show. She said the performance was a testament to her son’s lasting impact.

“It was tremendous,” she said. “He loved them and this showed how much they loved him, too.”

Ed Francis was born in Ohio and moved to California in 1965. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Cal State Northridge and went on to teach music at Oxnard College, Moorpark College, Pepperdine University and CSUN.

Francis founded the Thousand Oaks Philharmonic in 2000 with the primary goal of providing exceptional music students the opportunity to be featured as soloists with a professional orchestra.

Jahan Raymond is one of those exceptional students.

The 15-year-old, who takes academic and music classes at Moorpark College and UCLA, lost a mentor and a friend when Francis died. The Bell Canyon resident started studying with Francis a few years ago after a previous instructor told him he wasn’t ready to learn a piece by Rachmaninoff.

Francis supported Jahan, and the teen piano virtuoso went on to perform compositions by the famed Russian composer in the last two annual Opuses.

When Jahan decided he wanted to compose his own piece for this year’s event, Francis gave him the green light.

“He never stopped me from doing what I wanted,” he said. “He was very dedicated.”

The orchestra performed Jahan’s composition “Fete Macabre” on Friday and Sunday.

Jahan’s mom, Kavita Daswani, said Francis’ funeral on July 11 at St. Julie Billiart in Newbury Park was packed with former students.

“It was standing-room-only.” He touched so many people.”

Even as Francis’ health declined in recent months, Daswani said, his top priority was making sure students had their arrangements and tutors lined up for last weekend’s performances.

“His death felt very sudden. Everyone assumed he’d be back because he was so upbeat and checking in with students. He didn’t collapse and forget. He made sure everybody had what they needed all the way up to the end,” she said. “It felt like he was still there.”

Ornela Ervin is on the philharmonic’s board of directors. The Albanian immigrant said Francis was one of the first people she met after arriving in the United States.

“He was the driving force behind the philharmonic,” Ervin said. “He had a magnetic personality. He was a leader, not just a music teacher. He’s irreplaceable.”

Her daughter, Megan, never formally studied under Francis, but he still had a major impact on her life and her dedication to music.

“He came to the hospital the day she was born. He came to her birthdays, Christmas. He was always on her to practice,” Ervin said.

Apparently, Megan listened. The incoming Westlake High School junior played a Saint- Saëns concerto for Opus 49. Her performance Sunday was met with a standing ovation.

The Francis family has encouraged mourners to make a donation to the Thousand Oaks Philharmonic’s Edward Francis Scholarship Fund. For more information, visit www.tophil.org.

Return to top