Film about Burlington-born group for musicians with mental illness gets national TV debut

A documentary about the Burlington-born music organization that became the world’s first orchestra created by and for musicians with mental illness and those who support them makes its national debut this weekend.

“Orchestrating Change,” which tells the story of the Me2/Orchestra, will be shown on the World public television channel at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 5. Vermonters can find the 90-minute film on Vermont PBS Plus at that time as well.

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The documentary "Orchestrating Change," about the Burlington-born Me2/Orchestra, makes its national premiere Sept. 5, 2020.

The Me2/Orchestra was created in 2011 by Ronald Braunstein after he was fired as conductor of the Vermont Youth Orchestra. His career as a world-class conductor was cut short because of his diagnosis for bipolar disorder. His now-wife, Caroline Whiddon, the former executive director of the VYO, is executive director of Me2/.

Since they began the Me2/Orchestra, Braunstein and Whiddon have expanded the model to Boston. Affiliated groups have been started throughout New England and in Portland, Oregon, with plans to expand in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Maine.

Ronald Braunstein and Caroline Whiddon of the Burlington-born Me2/Orchestra.

Speaking in 2012 with the Burlington Free Press, Braunstein said the Me2/Orchestra gives him what many of the musicians who take part in the group say it provides them – the ability to relax in a nonjudgmental space.

“Personally, I get a lot out of it,” he said. “I’m a conductor, but I’m a member of a group. They give me a chance to be myself.”

The Me2/Orchestra in Burlington in May 2018.

Contact Brent Hallenbeck at bhallenbeck@freepressmedia.com. Follow Brent on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BrentHallenbeck.

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