BRIT Trust Diaries: David Munns looks back on three decades of working with Nordoff And Robbins

BRIT Trust Diaries: David Munns looks back on three decades of working with Nordoff And Robbins

In this edition of the BRIT Trust Diaries, David Munns OBE looks back on his work with Nordoff And Robbins. Munns announced in January that he is stepping down as chair of trustees of Nordoff And Robbins, the music therapy charity that uses music to help people living with a variety of communication difficulties.

David Munns has held senior roles at Polygram and EMI and worked with artists including Kate Bush, U2, the Bee Gees, Bon Jovi, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Van Morrison. He also chaired the Music Industry Trusts Award (MITS) Committee for 27 years, raising over £7 million for Nordoff And Robbins and The BRIT Trust, before stepping down in 2021. He remains a trustee of The BRIT Trust.

In this edition of The BRIT Trust Diaries, Munns opens up about his time at Nordoff And Robbins, and about how the music industry should continue to give back through music…

My journey with Nordoff And Robbins started over 30 years ago, when Willie Robertson demanded that I (as MD of Polydor) bid for the live album of the planned Knebworth concert – which I duly did!

The Knebworth concert in 1990 was a defining moment for the music industry, for Nordoff And Robbins and the BRIT Trust. The money raised allowed Nordoff And Robbins to make a step-change in the charity’s mission, and it meant that The BRIT Trust and The BRIT School were born. It also created the annual Music Industry Trust Awards (MITS) – we are still benefiting from the effect of the money raised at that concert, more than three decades later.

It was a humble start for Nordoff And Robbins in 1976 (when it was established as a charity) with a handful of therapists delivering music therapy mainly in London and the South East. It’s gone from strength to strength and it now has 117 music therapists working across the UK.

The Masters of Music Therapy course (validated by Goldsmiths University) that Nordoff And Robbins started in 1995 is vital in continuing to provide the future generation of music therapists. Without this training, there are no therapists and there is no therapy. I remain in awe of the therapists, their dedication and high standards.

In 2009 we started music therapy at a unit in Croydon, now named the Andrew Lloyd Webber Music Therapy Unit, in 2015 a base at the Royal Albert Hall, and in 2018 we opened the Newcastle Centre. All this, as well as the Scotland Merger, which strengthened our activities in Scotland, allowed us to spread the music therapy programme from London into Newcastle and Manchester and beyond.

Recognising that the need is at a national level, Nordoff And Robbins has expanded over the years, helping to meet the growing needs of children with disability and learning difficulties, people living with dementia, mental health challenges and more. We’ve increased the number of people we work with to more than 13,000, reaching almost 50,000 music therapy sessions each year.

We couldn’t have done this without the support of the music industry, and the BRIT Trust in particular.

But whilst all of this is great work, it has to be paid for and if Nordoff and Robbins is going to continue to expand, it must increase the funds it raises accordingly.

Life for charities is very difficult right now. Like many, Nordoff And Robbins have still not fully recovered from the pandemic, which caused fundraising income to halve overnight. There is a cost of living crisis, giving habits have changed, and interest rates and inflation have gone up. This means rising costs to the charity which they can’t pass on, all whilst the need for music therapy is increasing and becoming more recognised.

Isolation in society is getting worse. For example there will be one million people living with dementia by 2030, while one in four of us are currently experiencing mental health challenges. All these groups could stand to benefit from music therapy. But we simply can’t increase our support for people without proportionately growing our income.

There are over 165,000 registered charities in the UK, and the competition for donations is at an all-time high. But Nordoff And Robbins strikes at the heart of the music industry, which is why I am asking you to support them in all that they do.

In life we don't just use music to entertain, we must also use the power of music to help those who find it difficult, if not impossible, to communicate in any other way. They can’t be forgotten.

As I hand over the baton as chair of the Nordoff And Robbins trustees to Emma Banks, I know that, with the support of Sandra Schembri as CEO and her team at Nordoff And Robbins, she will do a great job. 

I thank you for taking the time to read these few words of reflection of my years with a very special charity that it has been a privilege to serve, and I encourage you to learn more about its vital work and that of the BRIT Trust – and perhaps even give some thought to how you may be able to support what they do in future.

To learn more and also to donate, please visit:


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