Ronald Braunstein, conductor of Burlington-based ME2/orchestra and ME2/strings, has had his share of what BBC News calls "both high notes and low."
A graduate of Juillard School who apprenticed at Berlin Philharmonic, and first-place winner of a prestigious international award for conducting, Braunstein's international career brought him to Burlington to become the conductor and music director for the Vermont Youth Orchestra in the spring of 2010. By November, he had been dismissed, under a cloud of accusations about inappropriate behavior — stemming, he claimed, from his struggle with bipolar disorder.
According to his website, he had been diagnosed in 1985. Braunstein sued the VYO; a settlement was reached, for an undisclosed sum, less than a year later.
In a video interview for BBC News' online magazine (as on his website), Braunstein skips over that unfortunate chapter and waxes enthusiastic about his current orchestra, ME2 (me, too). Founded in the fall of 2011, the group welcomes musicians dealing with mental issues, and their allies.
Over footage of a recent rehearsal, the conductor talks about the safety and comfort he and the other members feel, in contrast with a musical world — and indeed, society in general — that misunderstands, fears and has little patience for individuals with bipolar or other disorders.
In ME2, there is no such stigma and no sense of limitation or judgment, Braunstein conveys. In the interview, he notes that some orchestra members have so grown in self-confidence that they have reconnected with family members after many years of alienation.
In recent years, Braunstein has followed in his artist mother's footsteps and avidly pursued painting. His abstract works, which he says provide another expressive outlet, have been exhibited locally.