David Stanley BEM is a disability rights campaigner, musical director, teacher, composer and concert producer. He studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, King’s College London, the Royal Academy of Music and the Institute of Education. David 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 was awarded the Medal of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s 2021 New Year Honours List for services to people with Special Needs and was bestowed the Honour of Freeman of the City of Southend-on-Sea in 2023. He is a Churchill Fellow, Paul Harris Fellow (Rotary International) and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. David was a 2020 Global Peace Ambassador for People with Disabilities and became the UK Government’s Disability and Access Ambassador for Arts and Culture in 2021. He was also a member of the advisory panel for the National Plan for Music Education, representing UK school pupils with SEND. In 2022 David’s work reached the United Nations in New York through a video presentation by the UK’s Minister for Disabled People.
In 2023, the singer and broadcaster Michael Ball presented David with the National Lottery’s Special Recognition Award at the Big Night of Musicals on BBC1. In the same year, David was awarded a Pride of Essex Award and Motability Magazine listed him as one of the top 45 trailblazers who have paved the way in championing disability rights. In 2022, David received the first ever Sir David Amess Memorial Award at the Bengal’s Pride Awards and he was shortlisted in the Lifetime Achievement Category at the Music and Drama Education Awards. In 2021, David won the King’s College London Distinguished Alumni Award for demonstrating outstanding achievement in the arts and culture sector, specifically his commitment to improving disability rights in the music industry and his determination to use music as a universal language to free the constraints placed on people with disabilities across the world. During the Pandemic David was named a ‘Community Hero’ by the UK Community Network in recognition of his efforts to reach vulnerable people during the lockdowns. Recruitment company, Venquis, listed him as one of the 33 most inspirational leaders who have ‘Made A Difference’. In 2020 David’s Music Man Project won a Danny Award in New York for Best Performance of a Cover Song. David also won the 2019 Lions International Outstanding Contribution to the Community Award and the 2016 Kids Count Inspiration Best Creative Contribution Award.
David established The Music Man Project as a national charity to meet growing national and international demand for his accessible music service, not just for the learning-disabled community, but for other vulnerable groups too. 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. His teaching is the basis of PhD research at the Royal College of Music and he has presented seminars at Berklee College’s ABLE Assembly in Boston, the Manhattan School of Music in New York and the UK’s National Music Mark Conference. David also delivered a spotlight session 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.
David and his famous Music Man Project Global Ambassadors have delivered performance workshops to over 15,000 mainstream Primary School children, promoting understanding and acceptance of disability diversity to future generations. His students opened the National Lottery’s 25th birthday TV advert (“Three is the Magic Number”) and they featured alongside Mr Motivator on BBC1 TV’s Morning Live. They sing Christmas Carols live on ITV’s Good Morning Britain annually and regularly perform at the Painted Hall in Greenwich and at the NEC in Birmingham for Naidex, Europe’s largest Disability Show. They opened World Mental Health Day at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, entertained tens of thousands of people at two London Marathons and welcomed the Queen’s Commonwealth Baton Relay to Southend. In January 2023, David took The Music Man Project to San Diego for a performance with the Royal Marines on board the iconic aircraft carrier, USS Midway. The trip also included a corporate workshop for TEAM LEWIS and performances at a children’s hospital and a High School. In March 2023, David and his Music Man Project Global Ambassadors performed Music is Magic at the Royal Albert Hall to 15,000 people across three concerts as special guests at the Royal Marines’ Mountbatten Festival of Music. They recieved a standing ovation at every performance, including from His Majesty King Charles. In June 2023 David and The Music Man Project Ambassadors delivered a music workshop to pupils from Westminster Primary Schools at Number 10 Downing Street, hosted by the Prime Minister’s wife, Mrs Murty. In November they performed at Speaker’s House in Westminster to mark UK Disability History Month 2023.
In October 2021, David led tributes to his friend and Music Man Project charity president, Sir David Amess MP, following the brutal murder of the Southend West MP in Leigh-on-Sea. The Ambassadors performerd a special version of David’s song “Peace and Hope” at his funeral mass at Westminster Cathedral. After supporting Sir David as his Vice-Chair on the Southend City Status Bid committee, David became the Chair of the City Implementation Committee and then the ‘Town2City’ Partnership. David helped organise a special memorial concert for Sir David featuring The Music Man Project and his former musical theatre student, Lee Mead. David met His Majesty The King on the day Her Majesty The Queen officially awarded Southend City Status.
In 2022, David began a unique collaboration with His Majesty’s Bands of The Royal Marines thanks to an introduction the Rt. Hon. Penny Mordaunt MP and global marketing company, TEAM LEWIS. David’s vision is to connect elite military musicians and people with learning-disabilities through the universal language of music. His first venture was to record a special version of his song “Music is Magic” with SONY Music affiliate AMG Corps. The song premiered at the Painted Hall in Greenwich and promoted through a tour of London Railway Stations in aid of Royal Navy Charities. David and his students featured on TV, radio and in the national press to promote their campaign for Christmas number 1. The single evenutally reached the top 10 of the iTunes download chart and a framed copy was presented to the Prime Minister at Number 10 Downing Street.
In 2022, David was invited to showcase his students on ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent. 35 musicians from The Music Man Project headquarters in Essex performed “Music is Magic” in front of the celebrity judges at the London Palladium. The performance received a standing ovation from the audience and judges. The group were given 4 yes votes and Simon Cowell described their performance as “like drinking a glass of happiness”.
In 2019 David made his debut at the Royal Albert Hall, composing and producing a ground-breaking concert which featured 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.
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. 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.
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, including ‘The Music Man Project Strawberry Field’ in Liverpool. 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, the late 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.
Since 2017 David has produced a range of resources to support students, families, schools, volunteers and other professionals, such as 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 and video demonstrations, and is all available for free at www.themusicmanproject.com and The Music Man Project’s YouTube Channel. David presents The Music Man Project Podcast and records his own journey in his blog. He also hosts a monthly radio show on Chelmsford Community Radio which showcases the achievements of musicians with learning disabilities through news features, music and interviews. 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 Coronavirus of 2020 brought many challenges for people with disabilities. David responded to the crisis by developing new online services to engage and entertain disabled communities during the lockdown (#MMPWired). His home doorstep visits, Facebook live concerts, Zoom rehearsals, video calls and YouTube videos kept the music playing for thousands of families across the UK. With support from the Government, The Music Man Project delivered £6000 worth of musical instruments for children and adults to play at home and tablet computers for them to access the internet. David was a 5-star rated host for AirBnB Online Experiences. His Sing and Play with The Music Man Project welcomed guests trapped at home from all over the world.
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. His appearance on the show has received over two million views on TikTok and two and a half million views on YouTube. He has also appeared in two TV adverts for the National Lottery.
In 2010, David 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 reprised for a Kent Police Conference 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 his former student, 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. In 2020, he appeared in the radio play called “The Power Behind the Microphone” to celebrate 100 years since Marconi’s first ever radio broadcast, which launched the entertainment industry as we know it today. David accompanied international opera singer Anna Steiger and provided incidental music. The socially-distanced radio play was the only live theatre performance during the first Coronavirus lockdown in the UK.
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 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.
Before launching The Music Man Project, David was the Deputy Head Teacher of a secondary school with specialist Performing Arts status, and the Musical Director of an onsite post-16 Performing Arts College. His former students include the winner of the BBC’s search for Joseph Lee Mead, stars of Dirty Dancing the Musical, Lizzie Ottley and Austin Wilkes and lead of Dear Evan Hansen, Haydn Cox. During this time, David also wrote 12 volumes of text books for the Key Stage 1-3 Music Curriculum.
Since 2009 David has raised over £300,000 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. He is also a trustee of the Dolma Foundation, a non-profit organisation founded in 2003 to alleviate poverty by investing in education, health and sustainable businesses in Nepal. 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.
Following his Royal Albert Hall concerts, David’s next big ambition is to showcase The Music Man Project on Broadway.