Stephen Charles Willis, an alumnus of The University of Western Ontario, studied piano with Howard Munn and music history with Gordon Greene and Alfred Rosé. He furthered his musicological studies at Columbia University with Paul Henry Lang, Edward Lippman and Christoph Wolff, attaining the PhD in musicology in 1975, with his dissertation upon the life and music of the French composer Luigi Cherubini (1760 - 1842).
An historian and archivist, Stephen became Head of the Archival Collections, Music Division, National Library of Canada in 1977, responsible for producing several exhibitions and catalogues. He was a member of the Canadian Association of Music Libraries (serving as board member, and later as its Archivist) and the Ottawa branch of the Royal Canadian College of Organists. Stephen contributed to several collections of essays, and wrote articles for the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. He was also a performer: a soloist at Knox Presbyterian Church, and a chorister with Opera Lyra, the Cantata Singers and various other choirs in and around Ottawa.
As a scholar of 19th-century French opera, the neglect of Cherubini continued to hold Stephen’s research interest; his article on Cherubini figures prominently in the New Grove Dictionary of Opera (1992). As an alumnus of Western's Don Wright Faculty of Music, he generously bequeathed his Cherubini collection to Western Libraries' Music Library upon his untimely passing in 1994.
A keyword search of the Western Libraries Catalogue, using the phrase “Stephen Charles Willis Estate” will yield more than two hundred individual titles, including LPs, CDs, books, music scores, microfilms and manuscripts. These items reflect the wide range Stephen’s musical interests, and not just his specialized research into the works of Luigi Cherubini.