Russian Conductors Apply for Me2/Burlington Orchestra Job | Performing Arts | Seven days

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  • Dan Bolles ©️ Seven days
  • Kim Diehnelt directing a Me2/Burlington rehearsal

When the Me2/Burlington Orchestra posted an online job posting last week seeking a part-time conductor, Executive Director Caroline Whiddon was in for a surprise: two of the top four applicants are from Russia.

“I mean, literally, we’re talking about conducting a little orchestra in little Burlington, Vermont, one night a week,” she said. “We posted the salary at $12,000. You don’t expect to have international applicants.

The first application came about 48 hours after the offer was posted on on March 17. In a cover letter, the candidate cited his training – a master’s degree in violin in 2015 and a second master’s degree in symphonic and lyrical conducting in 2020. – as well as his experience as a conductor. But it was one sentence that struck Whiddon.

“In January 2022, I won a competition for the position of conductor…”, wrote the candidate, “but for political reasons, I had to leave the country”. He named the musical group in Russia he was to lead, but Whiddon did not reveal this in order to protect the identity of the claimant.

We don’t know where he is now. Neither he nor the other Russian candidate – who said she was born in Moscow, educated in Russia and has dual Russian and Italian nationality – included addresses.

The other two who have applied so far have listed their locations prominently: Binghamton, NY and Boston.

As millions of refugees have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion on February 24, Russia has faced its own exodus. Tens of thousands of people fled, New York Times reported this week, as sanctions prevent some from working. Others disagree with the war and fear arrest. Among those leaving are bloggers, journalists, activists, engineers and video game developers.

The musicians, it seems, are ready to go all the way to Burlington for a part-time gig.

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Ronald Braunstein and Caroline Whiddon - COURTESY OF ANN L. MOORE

  • Courtesy of Ann L. Moore
  • Ronald Braunstein and Caroline Whiddon

The job, Whiddon said, is an unusual leadership position. She and her husband, Ronald Braunstein, co-founded Me2/ in Burlington in 2011 as a classical music organization for people with mental illnesses and those who support them. “No audition. No fees. No stigma,” the group’s homepage states.

That said, it is not necessary to have a mental health problem to join an Me2/ program. As its website says, “we won’t ask for anything and you don’t have to share.”

Now based in Boston, Me2/ has orchestras in Burlington, Boston and Manchester, NH; a flute choir in Boston; and plans to start a choir in Boston this fall.

The Burlington Orchestra has about 50 members — mostly amateur musicians — who perform three programs, twice each, per season. Braunstein led the group until 2019, when Kim Diehnelt took over. She quit late last year to focus on songwriting and her family, Whiddon said.

Among the qualifications Me2/ is seeking for its next Burlington bandleader, according to its job posting, is the “ability to select music and conduct rehearsals that will challenge more advanced musicians without alienating those who are less experienced” and the enthusiasm to conduct performances in the two traditional styles. and non-traditional venues, “including hospitals, gymnasiums and correctional facilities.”

Me2/Orchestra plays Bach at the airport [SIV436]

Me2/Orchestra plays Bach at the airport [SIV436]

By Eva Solberger

Stuck in Vermont

“It’s very unusual work,” Whiddon said. “And we’re really looking for someone who is, in many ways, unusual.” On the full display, on the group’s website, is a statement that says that while personal experience with mental illness is not a requirement, it will be considered an asset, Whiddon said.

“So you’re running a room not only musically, but you’re also keeping an eye on people’s mental health and the emotions that they can process while they’re also playing Dvořák and Beethoven, and whatever. “, she continued. “So yeah, we’re a unique set, that’s for sure.”

Me2/ will accept applications until April 15, then its recruitment committee, made up of orchestra members, will have to decide how to proceed if Russian candidates are among the strongest candidates, as an in-person tryout is usually part of the recruitment process.

“We plan to bring in the final candidates in May and work with the orchestra,” Whiddon said, “because a lot of what we’re looking for isn’t just the skill and the right education or the right experience that you can see on paper, but you’re looking for chemistry…. So having them there would be really crucial.