Thomas Francis is one of Toronto’s leading pianists and is well-known for his extensive background in jazz and soul-based music. He grew up in a house full of music and has a shared family lineage of musicianship. Thomas became sensitive to the structure of classical and jazz standards while feeding off of the musicality and expression of Soul, Latin and Funk music.
Entering Humber’s Community Music School children’s program at the age of three was the beginning of a long training process for Thomas. He began his piano lessons at age five – eventually making his way to jazz studies at age eight. At 16, Thomas was awarded Downbeat’s Outstanding Performance award, and in the summer of 2007 he joined the Toronto All-Star Big Band. He completed his diploma at Humber College’s full-time program and went on to complete his B.F.A in Music at York University. In 2017, Thomas completed his Master of Arts in Composition, for which he wrote a thesis on the relationship between Jazz and Hip-Hop music, works that were awarded grants such as the 2019 Special Projects grant by the Toronto Jazz Festival, the 2021 Ontario Arts Council, and a new breadth course he created titled “Hip Hop: A Study of Blackness.”
Outside of piano and keyboard performance, Thomas has spent the last five years working as a Professor of Music at Centennial College, and in September 2022 joined Humber College’s music program as a full-time faculty member. Additionally, Thomas was the host of “The Jazz Gene,” a weekly one-hour show on Toronto’s online Jazz radio platform jazzcast.ca. Moreover, he is well-known for his musicianship skills in writing and arranging for strings, having established his own contemporary string ensemble, The Four Strings.
Thomas can often be seen playing with Canadian icons such as Juno award-winning Jazz vocalist Kellylee Evans, Pop artist Myles Castello, Country artist Emily Reid, or Soul diva Elise LeGrow. He has performed and/or recorded with Tony Royster Jr. (Jay-Z), Alexis Baro (Juno nominated Jazz artist), Dan Talevski (MMVA nominated), Melanie Durrant (Juno nominated R&B artist), KC Roberts & The Live Revolution (Toronto Funk band), The Reklaws (Juno nominated country duo), and George St. Kitts (Juno nominated Toronto Soul icon). He was also musical director for The Spandettes, a female-fronted, Toronto-based, Disco/R&B group, with whom he toured to Japan. Thomas can be seen in his element with his instrumental Hip-Hop/Jazz ensemble, Thomas Francis Friends.