Music, mental illness and ending stigma with Vermont’s Me2 Orchestra

Ronald Braunstein was a musical prodigy, becoming the first American to win the prestigious Karajan International Conducting Competition in Berlin in 1979. He was leading top orchestras around the world and his career was soaring — but his mental health was deteriorating. He was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder in his thirties. In 2010, he came to Vermont to lead an orchestra but was fired in less than a year. In 2011, his career in shambles, he and Caroline Whiddon, an orchestra administrator, decided to come out about his mental illness and turn his vulnerability into an opportunity. They formed the Me2 Orchestra in Burlington, VT, the only orchestra in the world created by and for people living with mental illness and those who support them. Me2 now has orchestras in Burlington and Boston, and new affiliates are forming elsewhere. Now a new film, Orchestrating Change (click for show times on PBS), documents the remarkable musical and mental health odyssey of Braunstein and Me2 and the orchestra’s mission to end the stigma around mental illness.

Ronald Braunstein, co-founder & conductor, Me2 Orchestra

Caroline Whiddon co-founder & executive director, Me2 Orchestra

Marek Lorenc, musician, Me2 Orchestra

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