David Stanley BEM
Musical director and disability rights campaigner
David Stanley BEM (Music Mmus, 2001) is a teacher, disability rights campaigner and founder of The Music Man Project - a multi-award-winning international charity providing accessible music education to people with disabilities.
A multi-talented musician, composer and educator, David worked as a deputy headteacher in a mainstream school for many years. During this period, David developed a friendship with Tony (a friend of a friend) who has Down Syndrome. David recalls playing Tony ‘The Music Man’ on his piano, and the two bonded over their shared love of music.
Encouraged by his interactions with Tony, David set up a weekly music school for people with learning disabilities, alongside his full-time job. This would later evolve into 'The Music Man Project'. The popularity of the project grew, and David eventually decided to quit his job as a headteacher to establish a new full-time music education and performance service for people with learning disabilities.
Since then, David has delivered performance workshops to over 15,000 mainstream primary schools. The Music Man Project teaches diversity and acceptance through playing and singing alongside adults with learning disabilities. David’s work has taken him from primary schools to the London Palladium and the Royal Albert Hall (among other prestigious venues), where he has produced concerts to showcase his musicians with learning disabilities from across the UK. His most notable achievements include performances at 10 Downing Street, at Speaker’s House in Westminster and numerous TV and radio appearances. David’s unique collaboration with the His Majesty’s Royal Marines Band Service led to a tour of San Diego, a top 10 Christmas single, performances for the Mountbatten Festival of Music at the Royal Albert Hall in front of the King, and a UK concert tour of 5 major cities.
David supports other communities across the country to duplicate his approach and connects disabled communities across the world, reaching South Africa, India, Nepal, America and the Philippines with his music.
In 2020, David was made a Global Peace Ambassador for People with Disabilities, and he became the UK Government’s Disability and Access Ambassador for Arts and Culture in 2021. He has used this platform to promote grass roots opportunities for disabled people, both as artists and as consumers. This includes working to improve access to museums, galleries, and libraries for people with disabilities. David remarked: 'It has been a privilege to meet a wide range of passionate and effective people across many sectors, assisted and encouraged by the Minister for Disabled People and colleagues at the Disability Unit in the Cabinet Office, the Department of Education and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.' In 2022 his work was presented to the United Nations in New York.
David is also a member of the advisory panel for the National Plan for Music Education. The National Plan aims to attract more SEND music teachers to the profession, provide visible platforms where children with disabilities can learn music and showcase their talents. These roles allow David to continue to expand the impact he is having on people living with disabilities.
David is a Churchill Fellow, Paul Harris Fellow (Rotary International) and Fellow for the Royal Society of Arts. In 2023 renowned singer Michael Ball presented David with a National Lottery Special Recognition Award on BBC1’s Big Night of Musicals. David’s contribution was recognised in 2021 when he was awarded the Medal of the Order of the British Empire for services to people with learning disabilities. That same year, he won the King’s College London Distinguished Alumni Award for demonstrating outstanding achievement in the arts and culture sector and for his commitment to improving disability rights in the music industry.
Find out more about David’s work at www.themusicmanproject.com.