Monday, 7 January 2013

Karajan’s first-prize winner now puts his heart into mental-health orchestra

Ronald Braunstein was the gold medal winner of the Herbert von Karajan Competition in 1979. ‘Everything was just going great,’ he says. But in between ‘there were times when I could not get out of bed…. for a year.’ In 1985, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Today Braunstein conducts ME2, an orchestra in Vermont made up of musicians who have experience of mental illness, either in their own lives or with close family. It is, he says, a response to the discrimination he faced.

He appears in a soft-spoken short film made by Franz Strasser for the BBC. Watch it here.
ronald braunstein

Ronald Braunstein began his music career at New York's prestigious Juilliard School and went on to apprentice at the Berlin Philharmonic.

His career as a conductor, however, has endured both high notes and low.

Braunstein's professional track was derailed by bipolar disorder. He says his colleagues in the music business seemed little to understand his condition and that he suffered discrimination as a result.

Now he hopes to use his talent to help others. He conducts the ME2 orchestra in Vermont where amateur musicians coping with mental illness come together to create music without worrying about the stigma.

Produced by the BBC's Franz Strasser

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