Students and faculty in the jazz program at Hope College are participating in the international 2008 European Capital of Culture celebration in Liverpool, England.

The college's Jazz Chamber Ensemble and faculty members Brian Coyle and Steve Talaga will be teaching and performing from Wednesday, June 4, through Wednesday, June 11, in conjunction with the year-long celebration. They are visiting the city through the college's continuing exchange agreement with Liverpool Hope University.

They will depart Holland on Monday, June 2, and return on Saturday, June 14.

The ensemble and faculty will be making presentations during the university's "The Big Hope" global youth congress, which runs June 4-11. Coyle and Talaga will be teaching a jazz styles and history class each day, with the students of the Jazz Chamber Ensemble performing historical music during the sessions. The Jazz Chamber Ensemble will also be performing throughout the week.

In addition, the Jazz Chamber Ensemble will perform during a Gala concert at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.

The European Capital of Culture program was launched in 1985 as a means of bringing citizens of the European Union (at the time, the European Community) closer together. Each European Union member nation is given the opportunity to host the capital in turn, with two cities selected to share the status each year. Liverpool in the United Kingdom and Stavanger and Sandnes, Norway, hold the title for 2008. Liverpool is presenting a program of more than 350 events in conjunction with its year as a Capital of Culture.

Hope College and Liverpool Hope University have maintained an exchange relationship for more than a decade. Hope's first exchange with the university took place in the fall of 1997, when two students from the university spent the semester at Hope to complete their student teaching. Hope students started studying in Liverpool during the spring of 1998. The relationship began in 1996, when representatives of the university visited Hope while in the process of renaming their institution. They liked the college's name and felt that it suited well their own institution's mission.

The Jazz Chamber Ensemble is one of four jazz combos in the curriculum at Hope. Through the years the award-winning ensemble has produced four well-received recordings and has toured both nationally and internationally. The ensemble regularly performs original student and faculty compositions as well as works from the standard jazz repertoire. This year the ensemble is made up of five Hope students: sophomore Larry Figueroa of Holland, piano; junior Michael Hobson of Flushing, guitar; senior Jeffrey Hatcher of West Dundee, Ill., bass; junior Stephen Hobson of Flushing, drums; and senior Ben Oegema of Lawton, drums.

Coyle is a professor of music, chair of the department of music and director of jazz studies at Hope. He is a performer, composer, arranger, adjudicator and clinician who frequently appears at festivals, colleges, high schools and clubs both nationally and internationally. Professionally, he has performed with Al Jarreau, Marcus Roberts, Gene Bertoncini, Roberta Flack, Melissa Manchester, the New Buddy Rich Band, Jermaine Jackson, Bobby Shew, Marvin Stamm, Gary Foster, the O'Jays, Pia Zadora, Eric Reed, Ravi Coltrane, Jeffrey Osborne, Susan Anton, Mac Davis and Lorrie Morgan, among others. He has also performed with the National Touring Companies of "Dream Girls," "How to Succeed in Business," "The Will Rodgers Follies," "Guys and Dolls," "Teddy and Alice," and the "Radio City Music Hall Rockettes." He is a published author, and has served on the Resource Team and was chairman of the New Music Committee for the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE). He also served on the IAJE Executive Board and is past-president for Michigan.

Talaga is an instructor of music at Hope, where he teaches jazz piano, applied composition and various jazz studies courses. For the past several years, he has performed with the outstanding jazz quartet Mind's Eye, writing and performing on the group's four compact discs, and he has also released five compact discs as a leader. He has appeared with numerous jazz groups, and as a solo artist at jazz festivals and clubs internationally, including a performance with Mind's Eye at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. He has also performed professionally with jazz luminaries such as Claudio Roditti, Bobby Shaw, Maria Schneider, Dennis DiBlazio, Marvin Stamm, Gunnar Mossblad, Clay Jenkins, Rick Margitza, Paul Wertico, Randy and Michael Brecker, and Kim Richmond, to name a few. He was a 1994 winner of the Down Beat Magazine Award for Jazz Composition, and received honorable mention in the 1996 Billboard Songwriting Contest. He was recently named Jazz Musician of the Year by the West Michigan Jazz Society.