CCM: Prep

CCM: Prep

Phil Willis


Phil Willis is a veteran of the Cincinnati jazz scene, having performed in the area for more than twenty five years. When he was thirteen years old he was fortunate to study with Cal Collins, one of the finest jazz guitarists ever, who played in Benny Goodman’s band, appeared on the Tonight Show, and toured the world as a Concord Records artist. Years later, Willis and Collins played a number of duo concerts as the culmination of a decades-long friendship.

Some of Willis’s performances include the Xavier Jazz Guitar Series, a Featured Artist Concert at the Fitton Center for Creative Arts, Cincinnati Music Hall, The Cincinnati Art Museum, Playhouse in the Park, The Twentieth Century Theatre, J.B. Fins, the Blue Wisp Jazz Club, and Peter Frampton’s wedding. He has had the pleasure of performing with most all of the area’s outstanding jazz artists, including performances with The Steve Schmidt Organ Trio, The Randy Villars Quartet, The Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, Ray Charles trombonist Marc Fields, L.A. drummer Steve Barnes, international recording artist Joshua Breakstone, Tony Award winner Jerry Herman, Grammy nominated composer Frank Proto, and most of the members of the CCM Jazz & CMP faculty, among many others. Willis led a great jazz scene at Borders Books for over six years playing with different area artists every weekend. He has been nominated for the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Cammy Award twelve times. Notable recordings include an appearance on the CD “Joshua” by The Jazz Circle, led by Steve Hoskins, and with Grammy nominee Bill Cunliffe.

Willis has a B.S. in Physics from the University of Cincinnati and a B.A. in Jazz Guitar from here at CCM. He began teaching for the CCM Prep Department during his senior year in 1989 and has been Adjunct Professor of Commercial Music Production since 2012. Willis has also taught at the University of Dayton, Northern Kentucky University, and the Toedtman School of Music. His first job teaching guitar lessons, though, was at the Hoffman Music Studios at the age of twelve.

Willis has had many fantastic students go on to successful performing careers. Scott Devendorf and Bryce Dessner are members of the Grammy nominated band The National, with record sales over 900,000. Eli Maiman is the guitarist for the band Walk the Moon, whose latest single, Shut Up and Dance, has gone Multi-Platinum. Adam Ross played 3 world tours from 2007 to 2011 with 8 time Grammy winner Rhianna. And also among Willis’s former students is Mia Frampton who is pursuing a career in acting including appearances in the 2011 film Bridesmaids and the 2015 film Cheater, Cheater.