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June 22, 2017

Obituary: Norris Lynn Stephens

Norris Lynn Stephens

Norris Lynn Stephens

Pitt’s first music librarian, Norris Lynn Stephens (SIS ’67G, A&S ’68G), died June 6, 2017.

Stephens earned both his master of library science and doctorate in musicology at Pitt, and headed the Finney Music Library here from 1966 until he retired in 1998. He was also an adjunct assistant professor in the music department from 1972 to 1982.

Deane L. Root, chair of the Department of Music, met Stephens when Root joined the University in 1982 as curator of the Stephen Foster Collection. Root sought out Stephens as a mentor, discussing the new challenge of digitizing library materials.

“Norris was a librarian of the old school,” Root recalled. “There were certain ways in which information about the collections was to be prepared and made available to users of the library.”

Stephens’ focus was compiling the most detailed bibliographical information about music collections. “That was his highest calling,” Root said, remembering the sight of Stephens toting bags of books as homework at the end of the day.

The reference work Stephens co-authored in 1997 – Collected Editions Historical Series and Sets & Monuments of Music: A Bibliography– Root called “a tremendously exciting step forward for music librarians all over the world. He had a tremendous dedication, an obsession with accuracy. He pursued that with a tenacity I don’t think many of us have.”

Before joining Pitt, Stephens earned an MFA in sacred music from the Union Theological Seminary in New York. His PhD thesis on 18th-century English composer Charles Avison is still cited by scholars. Stephens also played carillon programs for several local churches and composed and arranged music for organ, hand bells and choirs.

He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Donna A. Stephens, and their children Catherine (Simon) Richardson and Nathaniel Stephens. Contributions are suggested to the East End Cooperative Ministries:


Marty Levine,, 412-758-4859

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