MELROSE (CBS) – The world’s only known classical music group created specifically for people with mental illnesses and those who support them is based right here in Massachusetts.
The Me2 orchestra was founded in 2011 by conductor Ronald Braunstein and his wife Caroline Whiddon, a French horn player.
Braunstein had struggled for years with bipolar disorder and the couple decided they wanted to form a group for people dealing with similar struggles.
“The Me2 orchestras are ensembles for people living both with mental illness and without,” Whiddon told WBZ-TV.
“I’ve been living with bipolar disorder the whole time,” Braunstein said. “And I had reached a point in my career where I wanted to create an orchestra with people like me, where stigma didn’t exist.”
They now have 100 members, ages 20 to 80, in branches all around the world.
But what unites them is that struggle with mental health and music has been their escape, or — better yet — medicine.
“When I’m playing Beethoven, I can’t think about anything else,” Whiddon said. “So there’s this magic that happens when we rehearse.”
And now, the Me2 orchestra is embarking on a new venture, launching a charity effort called “Monumental Moments.” They want people on social media to share their triumphs over mental health issues with the hashtag #MonumentalMoments. For every post, Neurocrine Biosciences will donate to the cause of mental health.
Me2 has taken some of those stories of triumph, in fact, and created a new score based on them to be released Oct. 28.
“People living with mental illness, they can really work together and create music that’s beautiful,” Braunstein said.
They’re hoping the score will lift people up and give them a taste of the medicine of music.
“I feel basically like I’m flying,” Braunstein said. “I feel like I’m ready to lose myself in the music. I feel such a connection to all the people around me; it’s indescribable.”
You can learn more about the Monumental Moments campaign at me2orchestra.org.