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As a society, we’ve come a long way towards removing the stigma around mental illness, but we still have a long way to go before complete acceptance is the norm.
Ronald Braunstein wasn’t willing to wait for the world to catch up with him. An award-winning, Juilliard-trained conductor who spent decades conducting orchestras all over the world, Ronald had what he calls an “epiphany” back in 2011.
Ronald struggled with bipolar disorder for years, and the condition put him at odds with most of his employers. He suddenly realized that if he started his own orchestra for people who also suffer from mental illness, or who support those who do, he could create an inclusive community of people who are as passionate about music as he is.
“It was a constant up and down, up and down until I realized I just want my own orchestra, and I just want an orchestra with people like me,” Ronald recalled.
Ronald started the Me2/Orchestra with a simple goal: to create a safe space for people with and without mental illness to perform without stigma. It started with one orchestra, which performs at the historic Symphony Hall in Boston, Massachusetts. The organization has expanded to include numerous ensembles around New England and beyond.
“Playing music is so powerful when you are all joined by a common mission,” said Me2/Orchestra member Josh Santana.
On the Me2/Orchestra website, the welcome message is bold and comes through loud and clear:
“No Auditions. No Fees. No Stigma.”
Ronald says they’re not striving for perfection, they’re just trying to make their way in a world that often excludes people with mental illnesses. That’s why every session in every ensemble is a “stigma-free zone.”
“We aren’t trying to be the greatest orchestra in the world,” he said. “We are just trying to create a community.”
Ronald saw a problem and found a solution that benefits so many people! We’re so glad he’s provided these musicians with a patient, loving environment to bring their music to the world.
Share this story if you know or love someone with mental illness.
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