David Stanley

Founder and CEO of The Music Man Project

Churchill Fellow
2020 Global Peace Ambassador for People with Disabilities

David Stanley is a campaigner, musical director, teacher, composer, pianist, percussionist, theatre organist and silent film accompanist. He studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, King’s College London, the Royal Academy of Music and the Institute of Education. He holds a master’s Degree in Musical Analysis, a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education and the National Professional Qualification for Secondary School Headship (NPQH). David is the Founder and CEO of The Music Man Project, an international music education service for people with disabilities. He is a Churchill Fellow (Winston Churchill Memorial Trust), Paul Harris Fellow (Rotary International), Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a 2020 Global Peace Ambassador.

David received the Outstanding Contribution to the Community Award from Lions International and was highly commended at the Festival of Learning Awards by the Learning and Work Institute. David’s teaching is the basis of PhD research at the Royal College of Music into the effect of active music participation on well-being for adults with learning disabilities by Natalie Bradford. David was one of the first Hate Crime Ambassadors in the country and served as a non-party voluntary councillor for Leigh-On-Sea Town Council between 2011 and 2015. He is also the patron of the Yardarm Folk Orchestra.

Since 2009 David has raised over £200,000 for charitable causes through his concerts and fundraising activities, including performing 24 continuous hours of piano music at the end of a pier and playing a keyboard strapped to the back of a mobility scooter whilst walking for 12.5 miles. David produced a celebrity fundraising calendar 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.

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David campaigns for the equal rights of disabled people to perform at the most prestigious and aspirational venues in the world. He trains his students to become valued musicians in society and composes original music for them to perform. In 2015 David made his West End debut as a composer, producer and performer in Music is Magic at the London Palladium. The concert featured his original adult and special school students, supported by professional musicians, community choirs, the original Tiller Girls and stars of Britain’s Got Talent. It also included the 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, gay people,  and poorly behaved children.
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In 2017 David returned to the London Palladium to present a special concert in celebration of 70 years of Royal Mencap and to commemorate the life of the late Lord Brian Rix. His production featured his Concerto for Trumpet, Trombone and 1521 Triangles which smashed the Guinness World Record for the largest triangle ensemble. David also premiered his second musical The Label, based on the book by Caroline White. The performance played to a capacity audience, including HRH The Countess of Wessex, and was featured on BBC television.

In 2019 David made his debut at the Royal Albert Hall, composing and producing a ground-breaking concert, featuring over 700 performers, including 200 musicians from The Music Man Project, supported by symphony orchestra, massed choirs and celebrity guests. The concert premiered David’s sci-fi musical “Music is Magic in Space”, marking 50 years since the moon landings. It was the largest ever celebration of learning-disabled musicianship and was the fulfilment of a promise David made to his original students 20 years earlier. The event was featured on ITV’s Good Morning Britain and heralded a change of attitude to learning-disabled music: from accessible audiences to accessible performers.

Working in partnership with other organisations, musicians, teachers and most notably the Salvation Army, David and his famous Music Man Project UK Student Ambassadors deliver performances and workshops around the UK to inspire more people to offer regular music teaching to their local learning-disabled community. Since 2015 he has transformed his original teaching model into a globally accessible music education and performance service, launching new regional Music Man Projects across the UK and abroad. In 2016 David led a 10-day teaching and research trip to children’s homes, day centres and an orphanage in South Africa. This was followed by a visit to Northern Ireland to support a music teacher in Enniskillen. In the same year, David delivered workshops for London-based clients and a seminar for undergraduates at the Royal College of Music. In 2018 he established the Music Man Project in India during a 7-day teaching and training visit to schools, colleges and care homes in Bangalore. In 2019 David launched The Music Man Project in Nepal in partnership with the Dolma Foundation. After just 6 hours of teaching, children from the Navjoti Special School in Kathmandu performed their first ever Music Man Project concert in front of 300 people, including the British Ambassador to Nepal, Richard Morris. In 2020 David visited The Philippines to teach children in poor communities traumatised by natural disasters. David carries out this work on a voluntary basis, in fulfilment of his dream to reach every county in England, every country in the UK and every continent in the world. He is exploring how far the universal language of music can free the constraints placed on people with disabilities across the world, joining them together through song, country by country.
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Since 2017 David has produced a range of resources to support students, families, schools, volunteers and other professionals, including the self-published Music Man Project Songbook and extensive online audio and visual content. The material includes warm-up activities, sheet music, lyrics, signs, backing tracks, video demonstrations and supporting explanations and is available for free on this website and The Music Man Project’s YouTube Channel. He presents The Music Man Project Podcast and records his own journey in his blog (www.themusicmanblog.com). David has released two albums of his music, including 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.

The Music Man Project won the 2016 Kids Count Inspiration Best Creative Contribution Award and David reached the final of both the 2015 and 2017 Music Teacher Awards for Excellence. In 2020 David’s students won a Danny Award in New York (Best Version of a Cover Song) for their performance of Love Shine A Light at the London Palladium. Three of David’s Music Man Project students opened the National Lottery’s 25th birthday TV advert “Three is the Magic Number”. David and his famous Music Man Project UK Student Ambassadors have delivered performance workshops to over 10,000 mainstream Primary School children, teaching diversity and acceptance through playing and singing alongside adults with learning disabilities.

In 2019 David established The Music Man Project as a separate charity to meet growing national and international demand for his accessible music service, not just for the learning-disabled community, but also for people who are blind or partially sighted, and for those suffering poor mental health, terminal illness, dementia and other disability or disadvantage.

Before the Music Man Project, David was a Deputy Head Teacher at a Performing Arts Specialist Secondary School, having joined the senior leadership team as an Assistant Head Teacher before the age of 30. He played a pivotal role in helping the school transform its results and reputation, from failing to UK-leading. At the same time, David taught at a full-time Performing Arts College with many of his students progressing to successful careers in the theatre industry, including Lee Mead, winner of the BBC’s search for Joseph. David is also the author of 12 published textbooks for both the Primary and Secondary School music curriculum.

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. He has also appeared in 2 adverts for the National Lottery. In 2010, he composed a piano solo called Through the Efforts of Friendship to mark his visit to the People’s Republic of China and performed the work at the Confucian Institute in Beijing. Hate Crime, his first musical for people with learning disabilities, was premiered at the Essex Police Conference on Hate Crime in 2014 and repeated for Kent Police in 2019. 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 Nine Wives of Laurel and Hardy was previewed at the UK Laurel and Hardy Convention. In 2015 David wrote the music for a re-working of a Music Hall performance to mark the centenary of the Great War. He has also composed four Nativity Musicals for the Salvation Army since 2012.

David’s varied career has brought him into contact with some major figures from music, entertainment and politics, including Evelyn Glennie, Patti Boulaye, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Prime Ministers and several other Government ministers. He has played the world-famous Tower Ballroom Wurlitzer theatre organ at Blackpool and has been the musical director for award-winning amateur theatre productions and premieres. He is also resident pianist with the M7 Swing Band.

Following his Royal Albert Hall concert, David’s next big ambition is to showcase The Music Man Project on Broadway.

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David’s varied career has brought him into contact with some major figures from music, entertainment and politics, including Evelyn Glennie, Patti Boulaye, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Prime Ministers and several other Government ministers. He has played the world-famous Tower Ballroom Wurlitzer theatre organ at Blackpool and has been the musical director for award-winning amateur theatre productions and premieres. He is also resident pianist with the M7 Swing Band.

Following his Royal Albert Hall concert, David’s next big ambition is to showcase The Music Man Project on Broadway.