|Birth name Ronald Braunstein|
Instruments Piano, Violin
|Name Ronald Braunstein|
Role Music Director
|Born July 27, 1955 (age 60)
Shirley, Massachusetts, U.S. (1955-07-27) |
Occupation(s) Composer, conductor, author, lecturer, pianist, violinist
Ronald Braunstein / Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5
Ronald Braunstein (born July 27, 1955 in Shirley, Massachusetts) is an American orchestral conductor. He is currently the Music Director and Conductor of Me2/Orchestra, the world’s only classical music organization created for individuals living with mental illnesses and the people who support them. He lives in South Burlington, Vermont with his wife, Caroline.
Braunstein was raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As a child he played piano, and studied violin with Eugene Phillips of the Pittsburgh Symphony. As a teenager he began composing music and attended the North Carolina School of the Arts. He graduated with a diploma in music composition.
In 1973 Braunstein began his undergraduate degree at the Juilliard School of Music where he studied composition with Elliott Carter and Milton Babbitt. That same year he was awarded the BMI Student Composition Award. He then shifted his course of study and graduated from Juilliard with a Bachelor of Music in conducting in 1978.
During the summers, Braunstein received further education while attending the Salzburg Mozarteum, Fontainbleau, and Tanglewood Music Center. His teachers included Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa, and Nadia Boulanger.
In 1979, at the age of 23, Braunstein became the first American to win the Gold Medal in the Herbert von Karajan International Conducting Competition in Berlin. He spent the next four years as an apprentice with Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic.
The Karajan Competition launched his career. Over the next decade Braunstein guest conducted orchestras all over the world, including the San Francisco Symphony, Oslo Philharmonic, Stuttgart Radio Orchestra, Residentie Orchestra of The Hague, Israel Sinfonietta, Swiss-Italiana Radio Orchestra, Auckland Philharmonia, National Orchestra of Taiwan, Kyoto Symphony, Osaka Symphony, and the Tokyo Symphony. He also served as Music Director of the Texas Chamber Orchestra.
In the 1980s Braunstein joined the conducting staff at the Juilliard School of Music and the American Opera Center. During that time, he conducted orchestral concerts, opera productions, and musicals, and was Music Director of the Juilliard pre-college orchestra for six seasons. In the late 80’s Braunstein also conducted the International House Chamber Orchestra.
Following his role at Juilliard, Braunstein served as Music Director of the Mannes School of Music’s preparatory division orchestra, a position he held for seven seasons.
Braunstein was hired as Music Director of the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association in 2010. He was fired from this position after only a few months. He sued the organization and one of its founders, Carolyn Long, for discrimination, libel and slander. The lawsuit settled out of court in 2011 and in a public statement both the organization and Braunstein acknowledged that he had been experiencing the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Braunstein was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1985 and the ups and downs of his career often followed the mania and depression associated with this disease. In 2011 he decided to create his own ensemble that would accommodate people living with mental illnesses.
Braunstein and Caroline Whiddon (whom he later married) co-founded Me2/Orchestra (“me, too” orchestra), the world’s only classical music organization created for individuals with mental illnesses and the people who support them. The organization’s mission is to present exhilarating performances that encourage dialogue about mental health issues and erase the stigma surrounding mental illnesses.
Me2/Orchestra launched its flagship orchestra in Burlington, Vermont in September 2011. Three years later the organization expanded to include an orchestra in the greater Boston, Massachusetts area.  Braunstein serves as Music Director and Conductor of both orchestras.
In the years since launching Me2/, Braunstein has received international media exposure for bringing attention to mental health issues. Braunstein and Me2/ have been profiled by the Associated Press,  BBC News,  and Al Jazeera America.