By Eli Francovich
Nicole Lewis (’08) brought plenty of musical talent and training with her to Gonzaga. What she needed, and what Gonzaga provided, was a musical community that could expand her world.
The Oregon native studied biology, planning to go into pharmacy. Music came second, she thought.
“I knew I really wanted to sing as a career, but I never knew that was allowed,” she said. “I didn’t know people wrote their own music.” Her childhood provided her with classical piano and choir music. In her mind, songwriting, or any kind of musical improvisation was a foreign concept, and the only way to make a living musically was to be “discovered.”
Gonzaga changed that. Lewis dove in to her studies, biology and music. She credits her professors and a culture that supported the development of her talents – academic and otherwise. One of her biggest influences? Music professor David Fague.
“When she introduced herself she was super interested in singing jazz and wanted suggestions on tunes and stuff,” Fague said. “I’ve never met someone so jazzed, so excited about singing jazz. This was too good to be true.”
Simultaneously, Lewis competed in, and won Spokane’s 2007 “Gimme the Mic” competition. For her troubles, she drove home a brand new Camry.
Fague took notice. He asked if she’d be interested in playing around Spokane with him and percussion professor Daniel Cox. That was Lewis’ first inkling that she could make a living singing. By the end of her senior year Lewis was playing frequently and beginning to get a sense of the business.
Six years later, she has released her first full-length country album. She’s still playing with Fague and Cox. Guitarist Mellad Abeid makes the third faculty band member.
Parts of her album, “My Kind of Paradise,” were recorded in Nashville at Dark Horse Recordings. She recorded the remainder in Spokane. Lewis owns the album and paid her band members for their time. The success and professionalism of the project doesn’t surprise Fague. Her charismatic and kind personality combined with her musical ability makes her “super marketable,” he says.
Lewis has a day job. She works as worship director for Latah Valley Presbyterian, teaches a few private music lessons and works at booking gigs for her band. For now, they play the Pacific Northwest, but her goal is to start touring. Ironically enough, what originally drew her to pharmacy is also what she loves about music.
“I like healing. I like being a part of making peoples’ lives better,” Lewis said. “That’s why I like music. It’s healing for the spirit.”