Mr. John, aka John Francisco, has worked as a teaching artist for the past fourteen years.  Serving children of all ages and abilities, his work has spanned a wide variety of settings across multiple artistic disciplines (music, drama, dance, visual arts, playwrighting, etc.)

Most recently, John was an instructor at the Old Town School of Folk Music– teaching Wiggleworms, kid’s guitar and piano, and elementary music instruction for the Northshore Academy Elementary, where he worked with children struggling with emotional, social, and behavioral demands of school.  In addition, he was contracted through Old Town School to perform for children and families in Chicago-land hospitals, at large-scale events like the Square Roots Festival or the Milleneum Park Family Tent, and at countless birthday parties.

John has also worked extensively with children with special needs – including six years with the Red Kite Project at Chicago Children’s Theatre (CCT) where he was a performer and creative contributor of sensory-based interactive theatrical experiences for children with autism and their families.  For four years, he served as Curriculum Developer, Camp Director and Lead Music/Drama Teacher for Camp Red Kite, CCT’s daycamp for children with autism.  He also was a co-leader and developer of CCT’s Polk Workshops for Chicago Public School teachers and administrators– using drama in the classroom to promote the development of social skills, emotional recognition and expression, and as a tool in behavior modification for special needs students. Finally, in 2011, he was the lead teacher and administrator for CCT at HOPE Institute’s After-School Arts Program.

For many years, John worked in Student Services at Erikson Institute, the premier graduate school in child development.  He has taught in early childhood settings (KC Academy of Early Childhood Education,) in arts organizations (Lifeline Theatre, House Theatre Chicago,) and in community organizations (Menomonee Club for Boys and Girls.)

John is a professional actor, is an Artistic Associate at About Face Theatre, and has performed in over 50 plays/musicals throughout his career.  He also writes plays, stories, and songs for children and families.


Good Morning to the Morning

An original Mister John song, written and performed with song-writing partner, Nick Davio.
Blue Jug Band

The Monster Weekly

Original monster stories and songs written by Mister John.

Two Men and A Monster

A playdate performance for Old Town School of Folk Music, conceived by Mister John and performed with friends.

Workin' in Corners

Mister John sings a cover of Nanci Griffith’s “Workin’ in Corners” at a Porchlight Theatre event.

Red Kite Press

Mister John speaks with ABC about his work with the Red Kite Project and children with autism.
If you wished on a star for a musician, actor, storyteller, teacher and friend for your child, John Francisco would be the answer to your wish. John — or ‘Mr. John,’ as he is fondly known — has that magic touch that keeps children engaged, entertained and learning in imaginative and safe ways. More than that, his humor, energy and kindness create a space where parents, too, find friendship while marveling at his creativity and ability to inspire those around him. We have spent years with John at classes, birthday parties, and concerts and have followed his talented acting and arts careers with enthusiasm. Time with John is time well spent, and time that my family and I have cherished.”

“My son, Sawyer is slow to warm up to new people, something that Mr. John picked up on right away. He let Sawyer go at his pace but at the same time was able to connect with him and pull him out of his shell quicker than anyone I have ever seen. Truly the gift of a great teacher to be able to adapt to the personality of each child. His class was so much more than a music class by incorporating social education and Spanish vocabulary. My sons and I LOVE Mr. John!

John is super talented and has a way of including every kid even in groups with 40 children. He captures their attention with cool musical instruments and his wonderful, fun voice. The best thing about him is he entertains the adults just as much as the children.  And John has a magical touch with all children, including children with special needs. When my son, Jimmy, was in the same room with John, I got to sit back and relax because Jimmy could not keep his eyes off John and his amazing stage presence.”

“Mr. John uniquely engaged my son, Charles, and all of the little ones in our music class with his power of storytelling, song, rhyme, and rhythm.  His keen ability to create an atmosphere of warmth and positivity also gave me the opportunity to bond with my son and enjoy his first interactions with music.  Mr. John’s ability to make every child feel special and curious surpasses any early education musical experience we’ve had since.  Every class was a sheer delight.”

Mr. John has been by far the best music teacher we have had!  He is a wonderful, engaging teacher, and his songs and laughs are what our son looked forward to each week.  And as parents, we enjoyed his jokes and music as much as the kids!  It was a pleasure to take his class, and though we are disappointed that he is not returning to our city, we know that he’ll be encouraging other parents and kids to love music! Thanks Mr. John for a memorable experience!

We began taking music classes with John when my son was just 5 months old. For the next year of his life, John entertained us and educated my son in the most fantastic ways. My son thrived and we fell in love with these weekly sessions where we could relax, laugh and sing along to magical mashups like “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad + No Diggity.” In addition to music class, we also had John play at my son’s first birthday party where the adults and kids were completely engaged for 45 minutes. I highly recommend John for your child’s musical enrichment or entertainment at a children’s event. Philly is lucky to gain such musical talent. Chicago misses John greatly!

Mr John is, hands down, the best music teacher my kids have ever had.  He not only is incredibly talented musically, but he was able to engage every child and caregiver in the room.  There were staple songs to keep the session consistent, but no two classes were the same.  Mr. John would tailor each class, making it relevant to the time of year, and even asked for requests.  When he found out that my daughter’s favorite song was Sara Bareilles’ Brave, he spent the following week learning the song and sang it at the next class.  Mr. John’s passion for teaching children and years of experience showed; he had control of the classroom, yet was always fun and entertaining.  As a parent, I especially appreciated his subtle way of incorporating lessons on sharing and manners.  Mr. John’s class quickly became the highlight of my daughter’s week, sparking an interest in music that still lingers today.  He will always hold a special place in our hearts.”

Mr. John was (and still is) a celebrity in our household.  I attended his weekly music class with my older son for a full two years and never once felt bored.  A true entertainer and gifted teacher, Mr. John manages to reach each child where they are, and stretch them just a bit.  His talent, humor, energy and sense of timing/flow puts him a head above other teachers that I’ve encountered, and a year since our last class my now-3.5 year old still remembers him fondly.  Simply put, he is magic.

John was the first person who helped Miles to have confidence in initiating play himself and to follow his instincts as he’d always looked to his older brother for fun ideas. He let him request Godzilla and/or train songs and managed to engage him in musical improvisations. His example taught me to trust Miles to forge ahead and to try to stay out of his way as he chooses his learning interests and style. Thank you John–you taught an old grandma dog new tricks!”

John was the music teacher at the school I taught at just prior to having my first child. Before she was even born, I knew I’d be signing her up for music classes with him as soon as she was old enough, because he was extraordinary in both his knowledge on the subject as well as how he connects with children. Teachers like John are an absolute rarity, and I consider my daughter and myself so incredibly lucky to have gotten to take part in his many gifts.

I’ve taken more than a dozen kids’ classes (from music to gymnastics to art to drama) with my daughter over the past 3.5 year, in both Chicago and Brooklyn. Mr. John’s music class absolutely stands out as easily the best one we took, with the best teacher by a long shot. Mr. John is by far the most gifted teacher that my daughter has ever had (and I include her preschool teachers in that), and the one who most obviously is meant to be working with young children. The purposeful thought that went into his classes, his positive energy, his ease of connecting with the children, the obvious joy he got from interacting with them– it was all in a class of it’s own, as far as I’m concerned, and was really a pleasure to observe. I enjoyed the class as much as my daughter did. Mr. John is unparalleled, as far as I’m concerned, and is both a deeply talented children’s educator, and also just an all around awesome guy to be around.

“Mr. John was a wonderful instructor at our early childhood music class.  Not only did he provide unexpected music that entertained both the parents and the kids, he successfully taught material that I wouldn’t have expected could understood by young students.  But what I felt really differentiated Mr. John was his ability to help guide appropriate emotional behavior, whether or not he was dealing with special needs students.  Fred Rogers is a hero of mine, and Mr. John truly had a ‘Mr. Rogers’ touch in his approach.”

Mr. John creates an environment of instant warmth, comfort, community and congeniality with seemingly effortless grace. His ability to be conscious of every child in the room and their particular needs is met with genuine kindness, focused discipline and true spontaneity. He is present in all ways to his own artistic impulses as a creative teacher and those of his students with just the right recipe of humor, playfulness and wisdom.”

“Mr. John led a music class for our school’s Mom and Tots program for several years.  Over the course of his time there, (and very much because of his talents!) the program grew from a dozen or so children to over 50.  Mr. John is an incredibly talented musician and has a true gift for engaging young children with music.  He has an astute understanding of children’s development and structures his classes so they are learning age-appropriate musical knowledge while having an absolute blast.  Amazingly, Mr. John would remember the children’s names and made each child feel special.  My child looked forward to his classes more than most any activity.  I would highly recommend Mr. John’s music classes for all children.”

“Mr. John was the teacher in my daughter Adeline’s class during her first important years of development. He was able to teach her about music, instruments, sound, creativity, imagination as well as the importance of being kind, patient and sharing with others.   This was all wrapped up into a 45 minute “music” class that seemed more like a participatory creative theater experience for the kids and parents too! He made a huge impact on expanding our daughters social skills, love of music and all things creative.  He is a wonderful teacher and brilliant at helping our little ones grow into great citizens of the world.

My son, Nathaniel, was lucky to spend about a year in classes with Mr. John, starting when he was a little older than two.  Nathaniel absolutely loved both the classes and Mr. John — months after our last class, he still asks about Mr. John and when he can go back to music class!  I really appreciated how Mr. John worked so much of value into class — musical concepts, instruments, Spanish vocabulary, social skills, fun, dance … sometimes, all in one 45-minute session.  We both looked forward to class every week. Nathaniel still loves to point out the names of the different parts of musical instruments, or spring some term of art he learned (Fortissimo!) on me.  Highly recommended.