Pr. Jessica Ewell

Dr. Jessica Ewell

Assistant Professor of Music

About Dr. Ewell

For summer 2015, while other Franciscan faculty squirreled away in their offices, researching and writing, assistant professor of music Dr. Jessica Ewell went to the Scottish Highlands, recording her third album, Songs of the Summer Realm.

Ewell, who is blind, composed the album’s songs using standard audio equipment, along with screen reading software and Braille music. She describes the project as “Celtic fusion,” centered on the theme of King Arthur and the idea of Christendom.

“When I was young, my favorite thing to do was play at sword fighting,” Ewell explains. “Now, as an artist, contemplating where we’re heading socially, I wanted to contribute in a way that could help move people toward a leadership that recognizes the moral authority of Christ. To do that, I decided to go back to my roots as a little girl who loved knights in shining armor.”

Ewell took her first voice lesson at age 12. Six years later, with her teachers’ encouragement, she decided to make a career of singing, and left for the University of New Mexico. From there, Ewell continued her studies in music at the University of Leeds in England, the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, and The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Along the way, Ewell taught voice in the United States, Italy, and the United Kingdom, and picked up numerous honors for her singing, including the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall after winning the prestigious Barry Alexander International Vocal Competition.

While one of Ewell’s favorite performances was singing with the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra in 2012, perhaps her most formative was singing for St. John Paul II during a private audience in 2001. That performance came on the heels of a summer retreat in Italy with the Franciscans, during which Ewell’s intellectual love for her Catholic faith became a “personal fire.”

The affinity for Franciscan spirituality Ewell developed during that retreat attracted her to Franciscan University in 2013. So, too, did the opportunity to both teach and perform.

“Juggling the two can be a challenge,” she says. “But you don’t have to say no to one to do the other.”

Married in 2011, Ewell and her husband, Jason, live near Pittsburgh, where they pursue their shared love for ice skating, dancing, and even mixology . . . although the demands of teaching don’t leave Ewell much time for play.

She doesn’t mind, though.

“Students at Franciscan have a unique openness to beauty, truth, and goodness,” she says. “It’s both a consolation and a challenge to work with men and women who are striving to be holy and change the world.”

For more information on Songs of the Summer Realm, visit