American Confucian Arts was started by three colleagues in the arts in Northwest Indiana. Professor Jianyun Meng, Maestro Troy Webdell, and Lisa W. Hedin. Each talented and experienced individual still works for another non-profit organization, but feels strongly that there is a gap in the mission bound capacity of each of those other organizations. So…American Confucian Arts was born. We hope that you will follow us on FB and check back here often as we strive to fulfill our mission: to exchange, explore and encourage the Confucian ideal of reaching harmony through the arts.
Prof. Jianyun Meng, the incumbent American Director of the Confucius Institute at Valparaiso University in US, was born and brought up in Shanghai, China. He used to serve as the principal violinist of the orchestra of Jiangsu Provincial Beijing Opera Theater, orchestra of Jiangsu Provincial Song and Dance Theatre and Jiangsu Symphony for many years in the 1970s and ’80s, during which he was the initiator and chief organizer for numerous educational concerts and exchange activities with foreign musicians and orchestras, and made a remarkable contribution to the popularization and development of symphonic music in Jiangsu Province and its capital city Nanjing.
Prof. Meng left China for US in 1992 to study music education. After receiving his postgraduate degree in 1993, he started to teach music as well as East Asian Studies for Valparaiso University.
In 2008, Prof. Meng was appointed the first American Director of the Confucius Institute at Valparaiso University (CIVU), and has since devoted himself to the promotion of music exchange between Valpo/Great Chicago Area and China, utilizing resources including strong support from the Confucius Institute Headquarters, long and rich musical tradition of Valparaiso University as well as his broad personal connections through music in both America and China.
Professor Meng is a strong advocator of Musical Confucianism, which emphasizes the purpose as well as strength of music in bringing people together. Under his leadership, CIVU has successfully hosted annual Great Lakes Confucius Institute Music Festival for nine consecutive years, established the Valparaiso University Meifeng Traditional Chinese Orchestra which is the first of its kind in US , started the for-credit traditional Chinese instrumental classes at Wirt-Emerson School for Visual and Performing Arts, organized 10 Windiana Concert Band China concert tours , put on Chinese musical ” Romance of the West Chamber” performed by a cast of mostly American performers, conducted the first US International Symposium on Music and Confucianism, the first Chicago Chinese Singing Assembly, as well as the highly successful and influential Yellow River Cantata Commemorate Concert celebrating the 70 anniversary of WWII, all of which have not only helped to spread Chinese music and promoted learning of Chinese language and Culture, but also deepened mutual understanding and friendship between American and Chinese participants of the above-mentioned events and activities.
American born and trained, Maestro Troy Webdell has enthralled audiences for years with his ability to connect people through the language of music. His innovative programming and balance between contemporary music, world music and the standard orchestral repertoire has created a welcomed niche in the world of classical music. As an advocate of new music, Webdell has premiered numerous works by composers including Roxanna Panufnik, Alan Hovhaness, Michael Schelle, Miho Sasaki, Halim El Dabh, Ana Milosavljevic, David DeBoor Canfield, Rudolph Dolmetsch, and Max Lee.
Webdell is the founder and conductor of South Shore Orchestra, a regional orchestra located in Valparaiso, Indiana. Under his artistic leadership, SSO has performed a wide range of symphonic repertoire including symphonies, classical masterworks, contemporary music, opera, musicals, and world music. In 2015, Maestro Webdell and the SSO were honored to perform a celebration concert in Chicago’s Symphony Center for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. The concert featured a 600 member Chinese chorus with SSO performing Xian Xinghai’s Yellow River Cantata and was broadcast internationally from Chicago to China. Webdell’s interest in world music and culture has taken him on multiple orchestral concert tours throughout China to conduct in renown concert halls in over 30 cities including Beijing, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Nanjing, Ningbo, Jiaxing, Shaoxing, Dinghai, Anji, Xiaoshan, Quanzhou, Yangzhou, Fuzhou, Wenzhou, Suzhou, and Hong Kong where his interpretations of the Chinese classical music repertoire have been received with critical acclaim. Additionally, Webdell has earned awards for his orchestral conducting in America especially in the genre of musical theatre, including outstanding musical/orchestral direction awards for productions of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Man of La Mancha.
Maestro Webdell’s dedication to music education and his commitment to engage students of all ages into the fabric of music can be seen daily when he teaches and conducts over 200 string students in the Crown Point Community School Corporation in Indiana. Webdell has also been a collaborator in developing an El Sistema based youth orchestra, interactive educational symphony concerts, scholarships for college-bound students, and “Unity Event” concerts featuring over 300 community chorus and orchestra musicians. As a clinician and guest speaker, Webdell has presented clinics at the International Music and Confucianism Symposium (USA) and at the Indiana Music Educators Association (IMEA) Festivals and State Conventions including an instrumental conducting clinic entitled “Conducting Young Musicians Expressively,” and a music composition clinic entitled “Composing Kids!” His primary conducting teachers/mentors have included Stanley DeRusha, Stephen Pratt, Frederick Fennell, Ray Cramer, William Hochkeppel and Michael Haydn.
Executive Director Lisa W. Hedin, displayed her passion for the arts at an early age and continued through to her majoring in voice performance at University of Illinois, C-U. Following graduation, Lisa spent years as a professional actress in Chicago with a highlight being the time she spent with Different Drummer Music Theatre, where she helped to create the entire organization. It was an extremely exciting five years: more than 10 shows, including 2 world premieres at 5 different venues. Following marriage and relocation to NW Indiana, Lisa became involved with community theatre, where she has now been involved in more than 50 productions across four counties in sixteen different theatres. Lisa produces, vocal directs, and stars in productions. She has been nominated numerous times for her efforts and has won four awards for her work as Best Actress in four different productions. Over sixteen years ago, Lisa was again able to merge her passion for the arts with her “day” job and became the first Director of Development for South Shore Arts (then Northern Indiana Arts Association). For more than 5 years, she assisted expansion of the organization from its parochial Northwest Indiana Arts Association roots to it’s current embrace of all Lake Michigan communities. Lisa continues to work in the arts as Executive Director for East Chicago Arts Initiative where her mission is to create arts opportunities to enrich our diverse communities through programs, partners and collaborations. She also teaches private voice to a studio of over one dozen singers. Additionally, Lisa spent more than a dozen years as a board member for Northwest Indiana Excellence in Theatre Foundation and served as its President for 7 of those years. In 2003, Lisa received the Women of Excellence Award in the Arts for NWIndiana. She is particularly proud of more recent international collaborations that include: a tour to China with an original work – Rhapsody in Swing!, a chinese musical performed in Chinese that toured locally – Romance of the Western Chamber – with partners – Confucius Institute at VU, South Shore Orchestra & South Shore Dance Alliance, and a concert at Symphony Center in Chicago where she produced a choir, sang in that choir and a collaborated with hundreds of Chinese artists from Chicago and China. Lisa has spoken and lectured on Arts Management, Development, and Producing Internationally here in the States and in China as well.