Steve Talaga, who is an instructor of music at Hope College, has been named Jazz Musician of the Year by the West Michigan Jazz Society.

In a feature in its May 2008 newsletter, the society described him as "The Bruce Lee of The Piano," noting that "his hands are like musical weapons."  The society honored him with a banquet on Thursday, May 29, at Aquinas College, where he is an adjunct member of the music faculty.

A member of the Hope faculty since 1999, he teaches jazz piano, applied composition, and various jazz studies courses.  In June, he, faculty colleague Brian Coyle and the student members of the college's Jazz Chamber Ensemble represented Hope as participants in "The Big Hope," a global youth congress held at Liverpool Hope University in Liverpool, England, during which he and Coyle taught a jazz styles and history class each day.

Talaga was a 1994 winner of the Down Beat Magazine Award for Jazz Composition, and received honorable mention in the 1996 Billboard Songwriting Contest.

For the past several years he has performed with the outstanding jazz quartet Mind's Eye, writing and performing on their four compact discs, "Angst for the Spoiler," "Seasons," "Lucky Nine" and "Children of the Glacier." He has released five compact discs as a leader: "Yin Yang," "Mirage," "Basement Alchemy," "Two Worlds" and "Contemplating the Heavens."

Talaga 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 such jazz luminaries as Claudio Roditti, Bobby Shaw, Maria Schneider, Dennis Di Blazio, Marvin Stamm, Gunnar Mossblad, Clay Jenkins, Rick Margitza , Paul Wertico, Randy and Michael Brecker, and Kim Richmond.

In addition to Hope and Aquinas, he has also taught at GraceBibleCollege, and GrandValleyStateUniversity. He previously worked as a producer at CMU Public Radio (WCMU FM) from 1982 to 1989.

He holds a bachelor's degree in broadcasting and cinematic arts from Central Michigan University, a Bachelor of Music degree in jazz studies from Western Michigan University, and a Master of Music degree in composition from Western Michigan University.

Organized in 1986 with a goal to promote, preserve and perpetuate live jazz, the West Michigan Jazz Society has more than 400 members.  The society promotes numerous events throughout the year and supports events presented by other arts organizations, schools and colleges in West Michigan.