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  • Writer's pictureDavid Stanley

10,000 Children and Counting!

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

"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!!"

There is no greater privilege than to teach musicians with learning disabilities. Music Man Project students are all wonderful characters with unique idiosyncrasies. Every day is different, often deeply moving and hilariously funny all at the same time. Like us all, they have their good days and bad days, but I have never seen a more dedicated and determined people. They are the best of humanity.

What my musicians may lack in technical skill, they more than make up for in expression and charisma. Audiences are immediately captivated by their dynamism, their energy and their humour. Few know their individual backstories, their years of struggle or daily obstacles but these seem to fade away when they sing, dance and play.

Having worked in special education for 20 years, it is hard to comprehend the ignorance surrounding learning disability that remains today. Despite huge progress in recent decades, the sight and sound of someone so different still sparks fear and confusion in many people. We all have a responsibility to enlighten the next generation. Today’s children must passionately engage with this once-forgotten society with enthusiasm and joy. They can be their channel for greater opportunity – the next great barrier faced by these wonderful people.

When The Music Man Project was invited to perform at a local Primary School, I wasn’t sure how my students would be received. Would they be greeted with stunned silence? Worse still, would the school pupils laugh? I could not have been more wrong. Young children treat our musicians like rock stars!

"It was truly remarkable! The children were blown away and came back so full of vim."

Everyone was enthralled by our upbeat music, enthusiastic singing and rhythmic playing. The hour-long workshop passed by in a flash and we were a big hit with both the children and teachers, many of whom were reduced to tears as they watched adults with learning disabilities teaching their pupils.

"The children that usually struggle to sit, listen or cope with different routines absolutely thrived; they were so engaged the whole time. It was a joy to see."

The Musical Role Models programme was born. Pupils learn to sing and sign our classic songs like Music is Magic, Peace and Hope and Join Together. They join in the musical mayhem of Hey There and dance along to Note by Note. By far the most popular song is High Low Middle in which 500 children do the Tango, Flamenco, Can-Can and even ‘the Floss’ with their teachers, all under the direction of our musicians. Autographs and pictures are regularly requested, and no one wants to leave the assembly hall. The schools use our online resources to follow up in the classroom and their choirs perform our songs in assemblies and concerts. With the help of funding from Southend Music Education Hub, we have inspired over 10,000 school children in a single year. We now receive demand for our workshops from all over the country.

"From the get-go I was not able to stop myself tapping my feet and joining in… it is definitely the feel-good assembly of the year!"

My hope is that this early positive exposure to disability will increase understanding and empathy in young people and reduce ignorance, prejudice and Hate Crime that might otherwise occur in later life. I want children to display the extraordinary level of kindness and compassion that I witness every week in the siblings and young volunteers who support our

students. There can be no greater legacy of The Music Man Project.

"The passion and drive that David Stanley and his staff have to provide this specialist music service to children and adults with learning disabilities worldwide is beyond phenomenal. The way that the group engage, include and encourage everyone to join in is incredible."

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