Francis Cowan studied piano with Ruby Campbell and then Judith Clark at Victoria University. Following completion of his degree in Piano Performance he trained at Wellington Teachers College where he continued to focus on music including training a demonstration choir of pupils from Karori Normal School. He also studied singing with Rosemary Quinn and taught piano privately.
Francis was appointed Director of Music at St Mark's Church School in 1989. At St Mark's he focused on developing the music programme into a fun and positive outlet for creativity in the academic tradition of the school's curriculum. The Festival Choir grew to over one hundred pupils while the Choral Scholars continued to provide music for the Sunday services at St Mark's Parish Church. While in Wellington Francis gained experience as accompanist for the Russian Ballet School, and for singers and instrumentalists.
He accompanied local choirs in such works as Britten's St Nicolas Cantata, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, and the Berlioz Requiem. Francis was also on the committee of the Royal School of Church Music and tutored at the Annual May Residential Choir School. He founded the Capital Boy's Choir. In 1993 they toured New South Wales gaining a standing ovation from an audience of over 1500 at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney.
In 1994 Francis moved to Hamilton inspired by the respected tradition of music at Southwell School. At Southwell he trained the Boys' Choir to international standards and devoted himself to achieving the highest possible level in all aspects of the annual Opera. This included designing and painting the sets and overseeing the artistic direction. Francis was invited to become the accompanist for the Hamilton Civic Choir in 1994 and has accompanied for competitions, exams and recitals on a regular basis. Highlights have included accompanying Dame Malvina Major, Tenors Richard Greagor, David Hamilton and Ben Makisi, Opera Waikato's Carmen (piano duo with Claire Caldwell) and coaching singers at the New Zealand Opera School in Wanganui.
In 2009 Francis was appointed Director of Music at St Paul's Collegiate School expanding his teaching experience into senior Cambridge and NCEA classes. At St Paul's Francis has promoted the standard of the Annual Musical and conducted outstanding seasons of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Sweeney Todd, Damn Yankees and Les Miserables. The choir has grown to 38 students and has toured Hawaii and performed in public to high acclaim.
In 2013-14 Francis continued to teach at St Paul's Collegiate School part time as Director of Vocal Performance. This included musical direction of the St Paul's Collegiate Choir and the annual musical production. He also retained the position of assistant Conductor of the Hamilton Civic Choir along with a busy schedule of piano accompaniment for the University of Waikato Conservatorium of Music.
Recently Francis has been appointed full time Piano Accompanist for the University and will take up this role from Easter 2015.