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Orchestra fighting stigma of mental illness marks 10 years

January 23, 2022 GMT
A musician, center, looks up from her instrument as music director Ronald Braunstein, left, conducts the Me2/ orchestra during a rehearsal at Symphony Hall, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, in Boston. The classical music organization, started in Vermont for musicians with mental illnesses and the people who support them, celebrated its 10th anniversary with a free performance. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
A musician, center, looks up from her instrument as music director Ronald Braunstein, left, conducts the Me2/ orchestra during a rehearsal at Symphony Hall, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, in Boston. The classical music organization, started in Vermont for musicians with mental illnesses and the people who support them, celebrated its 10th anniversary with a free performance. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
A musician, center, looks up from her instrument as music director Ronald Braunstein, left, conducts the Me2/ orchestra during a rehearsal at Symphony Hall, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, in Boston. The classical music organization, started in Vermont for musicians with mental illnesses and the people who support them, celebrated its 10th anniversary with a free performance. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
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A musician, center, looks up from her instrument as music director Ronald Braunstein, left, conducts the Me2/ orchestra during a rehearsal at Symphony Hall, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, in Boston. The classical music organization, started in Vermont for musicians with mental illnesses and the people who support them, celebrated its 10th anniversary with a free performance. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
1 of 7
A musician, center, looks up from her instrument as music director Ronald Braunstein, left, conducts the Me2/ orchestra during a rehearsal at Symphony Hall, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, in Boston. The classical music organization, started in Vermont for musicians with mental illnesses and the people who support them, celebrated its 10th anniversary with a free performance. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A classical music organization started in Vermont for musicians with mental illnesses and the people who support them is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a free performance in Boston on Sunday.

Me2/ is a non-auditioned orchestra of musicians, half of whom are living with a diagnosed mental illness such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or post-traumatic stress disorder, among others, the Burlington Free Press reported. It also marked its first 10 years with a free performance at the University of Vermont Recital Hall last week.

Music director/conductor Ronald Braunstein, who lives with bipolar disorder, and executive director Caroline Whiddon formed Me2/ in September 2011, months after Braunstein was fired by the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association.

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“I decided that I didn’t want to be susceptible to the stigma and discrimination in my field any longer,” Braunstein had said in a statement. “At that point, I decided the only people I wanted to work with were people like me — people living with mental illness and those who would support me even if I wasn’t having a good day.”

Me2/ now includes music ensembles in New Hampshire, Maine, Oregon and Massachusetts, the newspaper reported.

Nearly 100 of its regional players will perform a concert titled “Stigma-Free at Symphony Hall” at 3 p.m. Sunday at Boston Symphony Hall.

The hour-long event includes testimonies from musicians living well with mental illness, according to the Symphony Hall. Audience members may also participate in a question-and-answer session.