Pianist, composer and arranger Steve Talaga has been performing professionally for more than 40 years. He was chosen as the West Michigan Jazz Society's 2008 Jazz Musician of the Year, and has released eight compact discs under his own name: "Mirage;" "Yin-Yang;" "Basement Alchemy" (which was chosen as best release of 2000 by Lazaro Vega at WBLV-FM); "Two Worlds;" "Contemplating the Heavens" (a companion to the poetry chapbook of the same title by Linda Nemec Foster); "Heartside Sketches" (featuring a suite commissioned by MAJIC of Grand Rapids) which won the WYCE-FM "Jammie" Award for Best Jazz Album of 2010; “The Shapeshifter,” which includes “Deadman’s Hill,” for which Talaga won third place in the 2011 International Songwriting Competition (jazz category); and, most recently, "June Balloon." Most of his CDs are available on iTunes, Spotify, and other streaming services. To purchase hard copies, send him an email at: .
Talaga's most recent project is the band, Lifeline, featuring him (keys), his son, Stephen Talaga (guitar), Caleb Elzinga (sax), and Larry Ochiltree (drums). Their debut CD, "No Worries," dropped in October, 2019.
Talaga is also co-leader of "Mind's Eye," a jazz quartet with four compact discs to its credit ("Angst for the Spoiler," "Seasons," "Lucky Nine," and "Children of the Glacier"). Talaga has performed with "Mind's Eye" at many venues and jazz festivals, including the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and the Montreux-Detroit Jazz Festival in Michigan. Music from "Seasons" has been featured on the nationally syndicated public radio program, "Jazz After Hours."
Talaga is also pianist for many other small and large jazz ensembles and is featured on recordings with several of them. He has performed with many jazz greats, including Kenny Wheeler, Terry Lynne Carrington, Wes Anderson, Marcus Printup, Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Bob Berg, Adam Nussbaum, Wycliffe Gordon, Ric Margitza, Bobby Shew, Maria Schneider, Marvin Stamm, Denis DiBlazio, Jon Faddis, Claudio Roditi, Mark Elf, Johnny Bassett, Greg Abate, Walt Weiskopf, Phil Woods, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra.
Among the many composition commissions he has received are several from MAJIC (Musical Arts for Justice in the Community), Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids Poet Laureate Linda Nemec Foster, and the West Michigan Lakeshore Jazz Connection.
Talaga has recently retired from his position as an adjunct professor of music at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. He has also been a member of the music faculties at Aquinas College, Grand Valley State University, Cornerstone University, and Grace Bible College, teaching courses in jazz studies and music theory/composition. Talaga is frequently a faculty member at the Aquinas College Summer Jazz Camp and Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp.
Talaga received a Bachelor of Music Degree in Jazz Studies, Magna Cum Laude, and a Master of Music Degree in Composition from Western Michigan University. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast and Cinematic Arts from Central Michigan University.
As a student in 1993, Talaga won a Downbeat Magazine award in the jazz composition category. He has won outstanding soloist awards from the Elmhurst, Aquinas, Ohio State University, and Notre Dame Jazz Festivals; and awards for jazz composition from the Notre Dame and Montreux-Detroit Jazz Festivals. He received honorable mention in the 1995 Billboard Magazine Song Writing Contest, Jazz Category. From 1982 - 1989, Talaga was a producer and on-air personality at CMU Public Radio in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.