Local orchestra for people with mental illness celebrates 10th anniversary


BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – A one-of-a-kind music group that was created specifically for people with mental illness are celebrating their 10th anniversary this month.

It’s been ten years since Ronald Braunstein and his wife Caroline Whiddon had the idea to create “Me2 /”. It is the only classical music organization created specifically for people living with mental illness and for those who support them.

Whiddon says it all started when Braunstein was diagnosed.

“Ronald was diagnosed with bipolar disorder about 35 years ago,” Whiddon said. “He really found himself in the place of needing a supportive community about ten years ago. He had experienced many years of stigma and discrimination in the workplace and he just wanted to conduct and make music with people like him.

Whiddon says about 50% of “Me2 / ′ s” members live with mental illness.

“I struggle with depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic attacks,” she said.

Deb Gay says she joined “Me2 / ″ about 8 years ago to support a student at the college where she was teaching. Gay says that in those 8 years she has learned something about herself.

“I thought I was joining him to help everyone. I hadn’t really thought about my own problems. And then a few years ago I was like ‘Hey, me too. I have this too. I should talk about it, ”Gay said.

Over the past decade, “Me2 / ″ has grown from a small ensemble to an orchestra of over 100 people. The musicians of “Me2 /” hope that “Me2 /” will continue to expand its territory over the next decade and continue to break down barriers and stigma through the power of music, acceptance and friendship. .

“It wasn’t until I joined ‘Me2 /’ that I really understood how pervasive mental illness is and how it affects everyone,” said Liam John. “And this orchestra actually helped me change the way I think about people, hasn’t it?” That they are more than what we see. That there is more to this story.

“Me2 / ″ will be celebrating its 10th anniversary with a performance at the University of Vermont Recital Hall on Thursday, January 13 at 8 pm. The group will also perform at Symphony Hall in Boston on January 23.

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