“In 1999, I befriended a young man with Downs Syndrome called Tony. One day I sang Tony “I Am The Music Man” but he soon requested his favourite song: “The 12 Days of Christmas”. 14 renditions later we both collapsed in fits of laughter. It was the middle of July after all! Tony’s reaction changed my life forever. I taught a small workshop for people with learning disabilities with local charity, Southend Mencap. I promised my students that one day they would play the Royal Albert Hall. It was a joke that became a dream, that became an ambition and then my obsession. 20 years later, The Music Man Project presented 200 children and adults with learning disabilities from across the UK in a concert called ‘Music is Magic at the Royal Albert Hall’. It was the UK’s largest ever celebration of accessible music-making. The Music Man Project joins a remarkable community of people together through song, country by country. It multiplies that original moment of joy I experienced with Tony and shows what people with learning disabilities can do, not just what they need.”
Accessible Music Education and Performance for All
The Music Man Project teaches children and adults with learning disabilities to sing, sign and play original music and arrangements. We train our students to become respected musicians in their community, capable of entertaining large audiences at prestigious concert venues through the study of standard repertoire using standard instruments. Our approach is not corrective music therapy but instead responds to the demand for the same practical live group music tuition and performance opportunities afforded to the mainstream. The chance to see and hear people with learning disabilities perform live on stage, supported by industry professionals holds incredible value for everyone involved, from the performers and their families to the audiences they inspire.
From Southend to San Diego: The MMP Global Ambassadors
The home of The Music Man Project is Southend-on-Sea, the City where David established his first weekly music school with local charity, Southend Mencap. Following the debut of 80 Southend-based Music Man Project performers at the London Palladium in 2015, a group of 12 original students became the charity’s first Student Ambassadors. These leading musicians tour the UK with concerts and workshops to raise awareness of accessible arts and culture and to encourage other communities to duplicate David’s original service. They regularly appear in the national media and at major concert venues, and they have delivered workshops to 15,000 primary school pupils. In 2023, the Student Ambassadors became Global Ambassadors following their tour of San Diego, supported by HM Band of the Royal Marines and courtesy of our global marketing partner, TEAM LEWIS. View The Music Man Project’s Global Tour Map.
Miles to connect a global community through song, country by country
Miles to launch regional Music Man Project across the UK
Pupils sing, sign, play and dance to repertoire from the Music Man Project Songbook, led by role models with learning disabilities. Book a visit.
“I stood back at one point to take in the children’s reactions, all I saw was smiling, happy and laughing faces. The children were hugging and dancing with the Music Man group, just having the time of their lives. They didn’t even want to go back to class!!”
Musical Collaborations and Celebrity Endorsements
The Music Man Project collaborates with industry professionals and celebrities to promote the talents of musicians with learning disabilities in large-scale original productions. We bring together Music Man Project Regional partners to perform our original music at iconic venues, such as the Royal Albert Hall and London Palladium. Collaborations include Taiwanese mezzo-soprano, Der-Shin Hwang, Joseph’s Lee Mead, singing duo Classical Reflection, actor Peter Egan, the Phantom Peter Kerrie and stars of Britain’s Got Talent and X Factor. Our music is arranged and recorded by Al Steele of Shabbey Road Studios, Wales. In 2022, The Music Man Project began a unique collaboration with His Majesty’s Band of The Royal Marines to connect elite military musicians and people with learning disabilities through the universal langauge of music.
Higher Education and Academic Research
The Music Man Project is the basis of PhD research at the Royal College of Music by Music Man Project Director, Dr Natalie Bradford. CEO David Stanley has lectured at Berklee College’s ABLE Assembly in Boston, Manhattan School of Music in New York (annually) and the UK’s National Music Mark Conference. David and Natalie delivered a spotlight session and performance at the Inclusive and Supportive Education Conference (ISEC21), hosted by the University College of London Centre for Inclusive Education and the National Association of Special Educational Needs. Music Man Project Director, Sarah Mann, works in partnership with Kent University and our charity supported research students at universities around the UK, including Bath Spa University, the University of Birmingham and University College, London.