The inspiring story of Me2/Orchestra, the only orchestra in the world created by and for people living with mental illness and those who support them.
Directed by Margie Friedman, Barbara Multer-Wellin
Produced by Margie Friedman, Barbara Multer-Wellin
Editor: Ralph Herman
Cinematography: Derek Hallquist, Jim Frances, Tim Joy, Christian Clark
Original Music: Bronwen Jones
Animation: Sarah and Catherine Satrun
Note:Orchestrating Change's filmmakers, and even some musicians, can host an online discussion, or even attend your event. To inquire about inviting them to your screening, please contact orchestrating change [at] gmail [dot] com.]
"A wonderful tool to raise awareness and fight stigma. Highly recommended!" Wendy Giebink, Exec Dir, NAMI South Dakota
ORCHESTRATING CHANGE tells the inspiring story of Me2/Orchestra, the only orchestra in the world created by and for people living with mental illness and those who support them. The orchestra's mission is to erase the stigmatization of people living with mental illness through the creation of beautiful music, community, compassion and understanding...one concert at a time. Most important, it is changing the lives of the musicians and audiences in ways they never imagined.
With compelling characters, striking animation, even humor, ORCHESTRATING CHANGE addresses many of the myths about mental illness by showing what living with a mental illness is really like—with both setbacks and accomplishments. The film challenges audiences to reconsider their preconceived notions about mental illness. For those living with a diagnosis, it is empowering.
The film culminates in an extraordinary concert that is a triumph--for Me2/Orchestra's conductor and co-founder, Ronald Braunstein, who lives with bipolar disorder and thought he might never conduct again, and for the musicians, their families and the audience.
Grade Level: 7 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2021
Copyright Date: 2020
DVD ISBN: 1-948745-59-3
"To the performers in the Me2/Orchestra, Mr. Braunstein is much more than a conductor. He's a friend and a mentor, as well as a living example of what can happen when a person with mental illness is accepted unconditionally and treated with dignity and respect."
Jane E. Brody, Personal Health Columnist, The New York Times
"The film...paints the portrait of an ensemble that functions as much as surrogate family as an orchestra...The ensemble's importance transcends questions about whether particular performance standards are met."
David Weininger, The Boston Globe
"Terrific...A moving and richly informative film...Orchestrating Change provides a gentle, sober, and realistic look at the ways that mental illness shapes lives, and the ways that music can provide a community and a chance to build something beautiful together."
Joseph Straus, Professor of Music Theory, The Graduate Center, CUNY
"It is important for my music therapy students to get a sense of the depth and breadth of impact that music can have. As so admirably portrayed in Orchestrating Change, group music-making can be a unique and powerful way to provide a point of stability and connection in the midst of the emotional and psychological ebb and flow often found in mental illness. As a music therapist, I am heartened to see music as the catalyst for an unlikely group that now serves as an inspiration to themselves and their community."
Daniel Tague, Assistant Professor and Chair of Music Therapy, Southern Methodist University
"One of the most important things I want my music therapy students to know is that everyone has mental health needs. Orchestrating Change shows us the beautiful way music can connect people living with mental health diagnoses and those who support them, whether in the audience or on stage. Every single conductor, from elementary school band to the great philharmonic orchestras of the world, has players with mental health issues and would benefit from considering how they can universally support their players."
Andrew Knight, Associate Professor of Music Therapy, Colorado State University, Co-author, Music Therapy: An Introduction to the Profession
"Orchestrating Change is a passionate documentary overflowing with neurodivergent joy, struggle, integrity, and hope. Rather than rely on clichéd narratives of music as panacea, this nuanced film destigmatizes mental illness and amplifies humanity in all of its chromatic wonder. To hear these radiant musicians perform together is to hear the sounds of empathy, love, and social justice at play."
William Cheng, Chair and Associate Professor of Music, Dartmouth College, Co-editor, Music and Social Justice Series
"Orchestrating Change is honest about the cycles of wellness and disability that come with mental illness. The Me2/Orchestra does not cure its participants, or allow them to overcome, per se. It provides a space for making music where its musicians can be more fully themselves. I look forward to teaching this film in my classes on Universal Design, inclusion, and disability justice."
Jennifer Iverson, Associate Professor of Music and the Humanities, University of Chicago
"Orchestrating Change is a thoughtful look at the healing power of music, but even more it is about people overcoming hardship and recognizing the common humanity we all share. As a longtime music educator, I can tell you that many in music often struggle with anxiety and depression. The industry is not at all forgiving to these struggles, let alone more serious mental health issues. Watching this amazing conductor and his wife turn all that upside down as a way to face their own struggles - this was a beautiful thing."
Diana M. Hollinger, Associate Professor of Music and Dance, Coordinator of Music Education, San Jose State University
"Inspiring...With empathy, honesty, and humor, Orchestrating Change follows the fascinating story of Me2/Orchestra."
Robin L. Flanigan, BpHope Magazine
"Riveting...A powerful story."
Brett Campbell, Oregon Artswatch
"The Me/2 musicians shared their stories in such a powerful way. The film is a wonderful tool to raise awareness and fight stigma. Highly recommended!"
Wendy Giebink, Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) South Dakota
"This film has it all, an authentic look into what it means to live with mental illness, the vital importance of community, meaningful work and interactions, and the exceptional potential that exists in each of us. I recommend this film to anyone who seeks a series of beautiful stories with an outstanding ending; leaving us wanting know what happens next!"
Jill Wiedermann-West, CEO, People Incorporated, Mental Health Services
"Ronald Braunstein's vision of creating an ensemble for people learning to live creatively with their mental health, playing music alongside those who work with them, is captured clearly and presented inspiringly. Music is such a powerful art form, and is here employed for positive change in those who participate in its making as well as those who listen. We are challenged in this film to change our minds in order to change our world, viewing one another with insight and deeper compassion."
Delta David Grier, Music Director, South Dakota Symphony
"Margie and Barbara made a profoundly resonant connection with Ronald Braunstein, the gifted conductor whose career trajectory was disrupted by his bipolar disorder. This film is a beautifully told, heartwarming story that gives us all hope, at the deepest human level, for our future as a loving, connected species."
Jamie Bernstein, Author, Daughter of Leonard Bernstein
"The idea and its execution has been so successful that there are Me2/orchestras popping up in the United States and elsewhere...Orchestrating Change is as inspiring and endearing as a film can be."
Don Schwartz, cineSOURCE
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Awards and Festivals
Berkshire International Film Festival
Newport Beach International Film Festival
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... more Reviews
"The film does a terrific job humanizing mental illness and demonstrating what people are capable of when they set their minds on an important goal and work together to achieve it."
David S. Jones, M.D., Professor of the Culture of Medicine, Professor of Epidemiology, Harvard University
"Facing the stigma around mental health requires all of us to reconceptualize illness, independence, and even our lives. Orchestrating Change does that brilliantly through narratives of those most affected, brief animations, and performance."
Aubry Threlkeld, Associate Dean of Education, Endicott College
"Orchestrating Change is a moving and accurate view of the way that mental health intersects with the creative process. Focusing on an orchestra of people dealing with various forms of mental distress, we meet, get to know, and come to admire the conductor and members of this group who channel their unique individual life situations into the beauty of classical music."
Lennard J. Davis, Professor of English, Professor of Disability and Human Development, Professor of Medical Education, University of Illinois at Chicago
"Maestro Ronald Braunstein wants audiences to walk away from Me2/Orchestra performances feeling like people with mental illness can really work together and make something beautiful. I would like audiences to walk away understanding that they have much more in common with these talented musicians than they ever thought possible - a shared love of music, a shared appreciation of the skill and commitment required to make beautiful music, and a shared connection to the feelings music elicits in us all. I believe that it is the recognition of what we all have in common that breaks down barriers between people, forges human connection and promotes humanities."
Joanne Nicholson, Professor, The Institute for Behavioral Health, Brandeis University
"Rarely have I been so moved by a documentary about music - I was so inspired to see that affiliate ensembles are beginning to launch in cities around the country. This documentary can foster important conversations around mental illness in both academic and non-academic venues. The interviews and backstories of these musicians illustrate two things well: the erosive effects of stigma on a person's potential, and the empowering impact of a community that accepts and supports them as they are."
Devin Burke, Assistant Professor of Music History, University of Louisville
"The story of Ronald Braunstein and the Me2 Orchestra disrupts the stereotypes and stigma surrounding mental illness. Orchestrating Change is an invitation to witness the transformative power of music, and it creates an important opening for further dialogue about the meaning of art, community, friendship, and solidarity. The film offers profound lessons for students and educators in all disciplines and professions, as it speaks to what makes us flourish as human beings, and how we can share our lives with others."
Licia Carlson, Professor of Philosophy, Providence College, violinist in Longwood Symphony Orchestra
"There are some things in life that you just can't fake. Making great music and true compassion are at the core of this extraordinary film. Mental illness is no longer remote; mental health is not merely an aspiration. Orchestrating Change is a signpost for love, talent, and the gift of making a community."
Sean Astin, Actor, Director, Mental Health Advocate
"This informative film, accessible to a wide range of audiences, helps normalize conversations about mental health through a humanizing portrayal of people who enjoy classical music and support each other in a creative environment. The accompanying website offers excellent resources, discussion questions, and action items geared to help move the conversation about mental health past ignorance and fear."
Adriana Nadia Helbig, Associate Professor of Music, University of Pittsburgh