Motion Picture Academy seeks to boost black British film composers – Billboard

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in partnership with Mercury Studios, announced the launch of the Jonas Gwangwa Music Composition Initiative on Thursday, July 7. The one-year career development program is designed for black British musicians interested in composing music for film. The program will provide real-world experience, one-on-one mentoring, and networking opportunities, starting in October.



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Gwangwa, who died in January 2021 at the age of 83, was a prominent South African jazz musician and composer.

As part of the Academy’s ongoing Aperture 2025 global outreach and engagement efforts, the Jonas Gwangwa Music Composition Initiative aims to foster broader representation in film music composition, highlighting the focus on black British talent. Its creation was led by UK-based Academy members Nainita Desai and Gary Yershon (both from the Music Branch) and Misan Sagay (from the Writers Branch).

“This initiative aims to correct an imbalance,” Desai, Yershon and Sagay said in a statement. “Unlike the major contributions that black musicians make to the music industry in the UK, their presence in the UK film industry is significantly lacking. Through this program we seek to build a community among black artists in the UK United in highlighting opportunities to bridge film and music careers.

The program is open to UK-based black artists and songwriters with at least three years of professional experience as a musician. Two entrants, selected through an application process, will gain access to Academy members in various branches to better understand the filmmaking process; one-on-one mentorship with a member of the Academy’s music branch to learn about the practical aspects of composing for film; access to Academy events and screenings in London; and presentations to leading practitioners in all areas of film music, among other mentorship programs.

Participants will be paired with a filmmaker in the process of making a short film and will have the opportunity to compose the music for the film. The composition work will be funded by two grants from Universal Music Group’s Mercury Studios, a full-service global film and television production studio, and Decca Records. Additional programming and support will be provided by Abbey Road Studios.

Gwangwa received Oscar nominations for Best Original Score and Best Original Song, in tandem with George Fenton, for Cry out for freedom (1987). It was only the fourth time in Oscar history that a black composer has been nominated for Best Original Score and Best Original Song in the same year. Quincy Jones achieved the feat twice (in 1967 and 1985); Isaac Hayes had done it once (in 1971).

Applications for the Jonas Gwangwa Music Composition Initiative are currently open. For more information, visit

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