BY JOANNE KERSTEN
“I knew law wouldn’t change hearts the way music would,” said Jessica Ewell when she spoke of her decision to pursue a career in music instead of law.
Ewell is a new addition to the Franciscan University of Steubenville Fine Arts Department where she is an assistant professor of music. She leads the voice program, as well as teaching music theory and a new core curriculum class entitled Survey of Sacred and Religious Music.
“When I was little, seven or eight, I wanted to be a Christian opera singer,” Ewell said.
She began taking voice lessons when she was 12 and ended up majoring in music and foreign languages at the University of New Mexico where she graduated summa cum laude. Ewell also holds a master of music in vocal performance from the New England Conservatory of Music and her doctorate degree in musical arts from The Catholic University of America.
From a young age, Ewell knew she wanted to teach. “I always liked to work with people. … As a child we played ‘kitty school’ where we would teach our cats,” she said.
Ewell enjoys her position as a music professor, saying, “I love it when students get that ‘aha’ moment. When I see a student master a skill, I love to be a part of it.”
During her involvement with Gi. Fra., an Italian Franciscan youth movement, Ewell had a conversion experience while on retreat. “I’m what you call a revert to Catholicism,” she said. Later that same summer she had the honor of singing for the late Pope John Paul II during a private audience.
This love for Franciscan spirituality is what ended up leading her to Franciscan University. Ewell dreamed of teaching at Franciscan, and when the opportunity arose for her to begin a career here, she took it with joy. “I want to be in a place that is so joyous,” she stated.
She loves to see the Franciscan charism being lived out on campus, and to go into the Portiuncula chapel full of students. “I see a lot of joy in the students,” Ewell said.
Ewell has performed at a number of venues throughout her life, including Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall as the first-prize winner of the Barry Alexander International Vocal Competition. She also won the 2013 University of Toledo’s Art Song Festival Competition where she preformed her recital “Within Spanish Borders.” Ewell has been a soloist with the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra and the New Mexico Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as at the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s 2012 Mid-Atlantic Congress.
In 2011, Ewell released her album, “Christmas Presence,” which relays theological and philosophical insights through the beauty of music.