Hope music students and faculty played a prominent role in a leading international cultural event this summer.

The students of the college's Jazz Chamber Ensemble and faculty members Brian Coyle and Steve Talaga performed and taught during "The Big Hope," a global youth congress held at Liverpool Hope University in Liverpool, England, on Wednesday-Wednesday, June 4-11.  Nearly 600 student delegates from 55 nations took part in the event, which was the university's official contribution to the year-long 2008 European Capital of Culture celebration in Liverpool.

The Hope musicians visited the city and participated in the event through the college's continuing exchange agreement with LiverpoolHopeUniversity.  Provost James Boelkins and Associate Provost Alfredo Gonzales also attended as representatives of the college.

Hope literally helped get the event started and helped represent the U.S. while doing so.  Student musician Larry Figueroa, a pianist and sophomore from Holland, Mich., carried the American flag during the youth congress's opening event.

Throughout the week, Professors Coyle and Talaga taught a jazz styles and history class each day, with the Hope students demonstrating historical music during the sessions in addition to performing throughout the week.

In addition to participating in the activities at the university, the Jazz Chamber Ensemble opened a Gala concert at the acclaimed Liverpool Philharmonic Hall on Tuesday, June 10.  Constructed in 1939, the venue hosts some 250 events each year, including appearances in the past by performers including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Joan Baez.

Gonzales, who is also dean for international and multicultural education at Hope, noted that the youth congress was an encouraging and inspirational experience, with the participating delegates exploring international needs and issues and committing themselves to work long-term for a more humane and sustainable global society.

"To be able to be a part of that conversation with young men and women, and to see the glimpse of possibility being propelled by this idea of hope was certainly a moving experience for Provost Boelkins and me," Gonzales said.  "It was an opportunity for all attending to talk with colleagues from around the world and think about ways that we as a society, a nation and a world can come together to wrestle with issues of race, diversity, poverty and the degradation of the environment - and to consider the place of our faith in trying to bring resolution to the issues of our time."

Some two years in planning, "The Big Hope" featured multiple keynote speakers from around the world.  Some of the speakers and their topics included Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor of Westminster, who presented "Integrity in Public Life"; Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, who presented "Peaceful Coexistence and Faith"; Mary McAleese, president of the Republic of Ireland, who presented "Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding"; Iman Abdul Jalil Sajid, chair of the Muslim Council for Religions and Racial Harmony, who presented "Faith in a Secular Democracy"; and Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, president of India from 2002 to 2007, who presented "A Young India in Tomorrow's World."

Gonzales noted that the emphasis on faith perspective is in keeping with Liverpool Hope's origins.  The university had formed in 1980 as an ecumenical federation of three teacher-education colleges, two Catholic and one founded by the Church of England founded in 1844, 1856 and 1965 respectively.

He hopes that Hope can capture the spirit of the event in the coming months and years.

"The aspirations of our sister university parallel our own - to educate students for lives of leadership in a global society," he said.  "I'm going to look for ways to continue the conversation here."

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 exchanges have grown since the two institutions signed a new agreement in 2006 to find new ways to collaborate and exchange students and faculty.

The European Capital of Culture program that helped provide the occasion for "The Big Hope" 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.

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.  In addition to Figueroa, the students in the ensemble this year are 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.