People & Places

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

Ronald Braunstein conducts the Me2 Orchestra, the only orchestra in the world created by and for people living with mental illness and those who support them. Courtesy Me2 Orchestra

The Vermont Conversation with David Goodman is a VTDigger podcast that features in-depth interviews on local and national issues with politicians, activists, artists, changemakers and citizens who are making a difference. Listen below, and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts or Spotify to hear more.

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.

Guests: Ronald Braunstein (co-founder & conductor), Caroline Whiddon (co-founder & executive director), Marek Lorenc (musician)

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David Goodman

About David

David Goodman is an award-winning journalist and the author of a dozen books, including four New York Times bestsellers that he co-authored with his sister, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman. His work has appeared in Mother Jones, New York Times, Outside, Boston Globe and other publications. He is the host of The Vermont Conversation, a VTDigger podcast featuring in-depth interviews about local and national topics. The Vermont Conversation is also an hour-long weekly radio program that can be heard on Wednesday at 1 p.m. on WDEV/Radio Vermont.

Email: [email protected]

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