The Music Man Project is an international music education service for children and adults with learning disabilities, providing accessible music tuition leading to inspirational performances. Run by volunteers, the charity gives grants for accessible arts education, promotes equal access to performance, carries out research and raises awareness of the achievements of disadvantaged people in the arts.
The Music Man Project was founded by Churchill Fellow, David Stanley BEM, to meet a growing demand from parents for regular and accessible musical opportunities for their children. The project nurtures innate musicality, delivering education, enjoyment and performances through the teaching of original music at special schools, colleges, care homes, weekly music schools and daily adult classes in the community. It offers the same opportunities enjoyed by aspiring mainstream musicians by providing the best tuition, instruments, musical repertoire and performance platforms available.
The Music Man Project operates across the UK, and has reached South Africa, India, Nepal, the Philippines and America. It supports schools, the Salvation Army, local Mencap societies, Music Education Hubs and individuals in fulfilment of its objective to establish a Music Man Project in every county in England, in every country in the UK and in every continent in the world.
The project delivers inspirational concerts and workshops across the country which raise awareness and challenge misconceptions. Previous engagements have included a Remembrance Day concert at the Royal College of Music, a performance to close World Mental Health Day at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, entertaining 39,000 runners at the London Marathon and performing at Royal Mencap’s first National Conference.
Following its ongoing campaign for equal performance opportunities on the world's biggest stages, the Music Man Project performed two unique ‘Music is Magic’ concerts at the London Palladium. The 2017 Palladium production played to a sell-out audience of over 2000 people, including HRH the Countess of Wessex. It featured a successful Guinness World Record for the largest ever triangle ensemble and the world premiere of a new musical called ‘The Label’, based on the book by Caroline White.
In April 2019, The Music Man Project presented its debut concert at the Royal Albert Hall. The performance featured hundreds of MMP students from across the UK, supported by symphony orchestra, massed choirs and celerity guests. The show was hailed as a triumphant success and the first of its kind at this iconic venue.
A charity single from the Music Man Project’s first album ‘Music is Magic’ topped the Amazon Broadway chart. David Stanley’s e-book, ‘Music is Magic: The Story of the Music Man Project’ led the Amazon Kindle Special Education chart. The national charity has been shortlisted in the Music Teachers Awards for Excellence twice (Best SEN Resource category) and won the 2016 Kids Count Inspiration Best Creative Contribution Award. In 2020, The Music Man Project won a Danny Award in New York for their performance of ‘Love Shine A Light’ at the London Palladium. The service has been praised by two Prime Ministers and described as outstanding by OFSTED.
The Music Man Project supports doctoral research at the Royal College of Music into the effect of musical participation on health and well-being for people with learning disabilities. The partnership, initiated through Regional MMP Director and Royal College PhD student, Natalie Bradford, included performances, workshops and undergraduate training to prepare the next generation of specialist music educators in this sector. MMP founder, David Stanley helps other organisations set up their own version of his original model in communities around the UK and beyond, following a not-for-profit franchise model. In 2016, he led a 10-day teaching and research trip to children homes, day centres and an orphanage in South Africa. In 2018, he established Music Man Project India during a 7-day visit to special schools, colleges and care homes in Bangalore. In July 2019, staff visited Kathmandu in Nepal, South Asia where they successfully established The Music Man Project Nepal. In November of the same year founder, David Stanley visited America's world-famous Broadway and set up The Music Man Project New York. In 2020, The Music Man Project taught disabled and mainstream children traumatised by natural disaster in the Philippines.
Following its huge success, The Music Man Project has published a songbook, released an album and produced a range of online content to support families and teachers, including sheet music, lyrics, signs, backing tracks, video demonstrations and supporting explanations. This is provided free of charge, alongside training, mentoring and consultancy for musicians, schools, charities and arts organisations.
The Music Man Project develops the musical instinct that lies within us all to instil confidence, self-esteem and as a vehicle for joy and emotional expression. Rather than focusing on disabilities, all students are treated as the accomplished musicians they have become.
Founded in 2000 by David Stanley BEM, the Southend Mencap Music School was the original precursor to The Music Man Project before the full-time service began in 2012. An average of 50 adults and 25 children each week and a total client base of over 300 have enjoyed the Music School over the past two decades. The Southend Mencap Music School has performed to capacity audiences since 2003. David runs the Music School alongside Essex Music Man Project Regional Director Jenny Hitchcock and their team of professional helpers, volunteers and mainstream school pupils.
Between 2011-2012, professional filmmaker, Paul Carpenter documented the incredible story of Southend Mencap Music School prompting to its eventual transition to become the Music Man Project. The highly acclaimed 55-minute film is available to view on MMP-TV.