David Stanley

Founder and Director of The Music Man Project

David Stanley MMus BMus (Hons) PGCE NPQH, studied at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama, King’s College, London, The Royal Academy of Music (studying piano under Patsy Toh) and The Institute of Education. He holds a Post Graduate Certificate in Education, a Master’s Degree in Musical Analysis and the National Professional Qualification for Secondary School Headship (NPQH).

David founded the Southend Mencap Music School in 2001 and in 2012 launched the UK’s first full-time music education service specifically for children and adults with learning disabilities. The ground-breaking ‘Music Man Project’ provides education, enjoyment and access to inspirational performance opportunities and David’s work has been praised by the Prime Minister and described as outstanding by OFSTED. David campaigns for the equal rights of people with a learning disability to perform at the most prestigious and aspirational venues. He trains his students to become valued musicians in their own right and he composes original music for them to perform. The Music Man Project was a finalist at the 2015 Music Teacher Awards for Excellence and was invited to close Royal Mencap’s first annual national conference in Liverpool. David made his West End debut as a composer, producer and performer in Music is Magic at the London Palladium, featuring 200 of his adult, children and special school students. The cast was supported by The Music Man Project Orchestra, The Music Man Project Community Choir, the original Tiller Girls and special guest appearances by stars of Britain’s Got Talent. The performance included the world premiere of David’s musical From the Asylum to the Palladium which told the story of “mental” hospitals where people with learning disabilities were treated as patients alongside single mothers, the mentally ill, homosexuals and poorly behaved children. David composed the charity single Music is Magic which became a number 1 best seller on Amazon’s Broadway song chart. His E-book Music is Magic: The Story of the Music Man Project topped the Amazon Kindle Special Education chart. David lectures at the Royal College of Music in partnership with this world famous conservatoire to bring musical opportunities to people with learning disabilities in London and to train Royal College of Music undergraduates in the art of teaching within this unique field. David’s ultimate ambition is to help others to set up Music Man Project centres across the UK and to make links with arts providers worldwide. He established centres in Essex, Suffolk and Sussex and in 2016 led a 10-day teaching and research trip to special schools and care homes in South Africa.


Immediately before The Music Man Project David was a Deputy Head Teacher at a Secondary School, having joined the senior leadership team as an Assistant Head before the age of 30. He played a pivotal role in helping the school transform its results and reputation, from failing to community leading. At the same time, David worked at a full-time on-site Performing Arts College where he taught the winner of the BBC’s search for Joseph, Lee Mead. David is also the author of 12 published text books for both the Primary and Secondary School music curriculum.

Throughout his education and career, David has met and worked with a number of high profile individuals from the world of politics, music and entertainment, including Harrison Birtwhistle, Evelyn Glennie, Patti Boulaye, Dan and Laura Curtis and Dame Judi Dench. David’s TV credits include playing the Music Master in Channel 4’s That’ll Teach ‘Em and the spin-off quiz show That’ll Test ‘Em. David composed music used in both series, including The Charles Darwin School Song. In 2010 he composed Through the Efforts of Friendship in honour of a visit to the People’s Republic of China and performed the work at the Confucian Institute in Beijing. As composer in residence for Pinpoint Create Production Company, David wrote a new operatic setting of the Anglo Saxon poem Beowulf in 2010 and the music for an Olympic Torch Relay stage show in 2012, including a new song performed by Lee Mead. In 2013 his Fanfare for Noah was performed at Southwark Cathedral to announce the start of a special performance of Britten’s Noyes Fludde, marking the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth. In the same year, David’s music for the musical The Nine Wives of Laurel and Hardy was previewed at the UK Laurel and Hardy Convention. In 2014 David wrote songs and music for a re-working of a Music Hall performance to mark the centenary of the Great War.


David is a pianist, percussionist, theatre organist and silent film accompanist. Since 2009 he has raised over £70,000 for charitable causes through his concerts and fundraising activities, including playing piano at the London Marathon and for 24 continuous hours at the end of Southend Pier. He also played a keyboard strapped to the back of a mobility scooter for 12.5 miles, produced a celebrity fundraising calendar to mark Southend Mencap’s diamond jubilee and composed 8 pieces for solo piano which were interpreted by artists from around the world in an international music and art competition for charity. David is one of the first Hate Crime Ambassadors in the country and a patron of the Yardarm Folk Orchestra. He served as a non-party voluntary councillor for Leigh-On-Sea Town Council between 2011 and 2015.

In 2016 David was made a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International in recognition of his work with charities and for furthering understanding of people with learning disabilities.


“Over the past 15 years I have witnessed how music education and performance can bring extraordinary benefit to children and adults with learning disabilities. Foremost has been their enhanced sense of identity, pride and desire to express themselves and to make their creative and artistic mark on the world. Their role within a musical ensemble holds real value for them and remains with them when they leave the safety of formal music-making to re-join a wider community which often presents genuine threats and challenges. It is my belief that the following factors all combine to produce this wonderful effect: a) fun, rhythmic and expressive music-making, b) performing with others and enjoying the collaborative energy of their fellow musicians, c) the meaning, purpose and value of their performance work and d) the feedback they receive from an appreciative audience. All of these factors can be accessed and experienced instinctively by my students but further research is required to explore the processes, impact and long-term effects. In the meantime, we continue to enjoy making music together which is entertaining and inspiring for everyone involved!”

David Stanley, 2016