Health Care

Vermont Conversation: From performing for presidents to making music for mental health

Burlington’s Me2/ Orchestra. File photo by Riley Robinson/VTDigger

The Vermont Conversation with David Goodman is a VTDigger podcast that features in-depth interviews on local and national issues with politicians, activists, artists, changemakers and citizens who are making a difference. Listen below, and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts or Spotify to hear more.

When Michael Colburn was growing up in St. Albans, he dreamed of becoming a euphonium player in a band. He never imagined that the band would be “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band and that he would lead it for a decade, until 2014. As director of the nation’s top military ensemble, Colburn served as music adviser to the White House and regularly conducted the Marine Band and Chamber Orchestra at the Executive Mansion and at the presidential inaugurations of former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Colburn is now returning to Vermont for a very different musical mission. He is taking the baton of the Me2 Orchestra in Burlington, which describes itself as “the world’s only classical music organization created for individuals with mental illnesses and the people who support them.” The community orchestra was founded in 2011 by conductor Ronald Braunstein, the first American to win the prestigious Karajan International Conducting Competition in Berlin in 1979. Braunstein was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had to abandon his international conducting career, but he and Caroline Whiddon, co-founder and executive director of the orchestra, have created a stigma-free musical home for others with mental illness. Me2 has received extensive media coverage, including being the subject of a PBS documentary, "Orchestrating Change." Me2 now consists of two orchestras: one in Boston that Braunstein still conducts and the original Burlington ensemble now led by Colburn.

Colburn has gone from conducting some of the finest musicians in the world to leading a Vermont group “that really welcomes all musicians without fear of being judged.”

“Music can be an avenue of healing and a great resource for many who are struggling with mental issues,” he said.

vermont conversation logo

Don't miss a thing. Sign up here to get VTDigger's weekly email on Vermont hospitals, health care trends, insurance and state health care policy.


Did you know VTDigger is a nonprofit?

Our journalism is made possible by member donations. If you value what we do, please contribute and help keep this vital resource accessible to all.

David Goodman

About David

David Goodman is an award-winning journalist and the author of a dozen books, including four New York Times bestsellers that he co-authored with his sister, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman. His work has appeared in Mother Jones, New York Times, Outside, Boston Globe and other publications. He is the host of The Vermont Conversation, a VTDigger podcast featuring in-depth interviews about local and national topics. The Vermont Conversation is also an hour-long weekly radio program that can be heard on Wednesday at 1 p.m. on WDEV/Radio Vermont.

Email: [email protected]

Send us your thoughts

VTDigger is now accepting letters to the editor. For information about our guidelines, and access to the letter form, please click here.


Recent Stories

Thanks for reporting an error with the story, "Vermont Conversation: From performing for presidents to making music ..."
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.