Motion Picture Academy Renews Its Jonas Gwangwa Music Composition Initiative

Motion Picture Academy Renews Its Jonas Gwangwa Music Composition Initiative

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Wednesday (July 10) announced the second year of the Jonas Gwangwa Music Composition Initiative, a career development program for Black musicians interested in composing music for film. The program, launched in 2022, provides real-world experience, one-on-one mentorship and networking opportunities with an aim to foster broader representation in film music composition. 


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The program is named in memory of the late South African jazz musician, composer and producer Jonas Gwangwa. Gwangwa, who died in January 2021 at age 83, received a pair of Oscar nominations for best original score and best original song for his collaboration, with George Fenton, on Cry Freedom (1987).

Program partners are Universal Music Group’s (UMG) Task Force for Meaningful Change (TFMC), Mercury Studios, Universal Music Publishing Group Classics and Screen, Decca Records and UMG’s Globe.

The program is open to U.K.-based and U.S.-based Black artists and composers with at least three years of work experience as a musician.  Four participants, two in the U.K. and two in the U.S., will be selected through an application process. Participants will receive access to Academy members across various branches to gain an understanding of 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 Los Angeles; and introductions to leading practitioners from all areas of film music, among other mentorship programming.

Participants will be matched with a filmmaker who is in the process of making a short film and will be given the opportunity to compose music for the film.  Each participant will receive a grant to help support their film composition projects.

“After an incredibly successful first year, the Academy is excited for the second year of Jonas Gwangwa Music Composition Initiative,” Kendra Carter, academy senior vice president, impact and global talent development, said in a statement.  “Our goal for this program is to stimulate long-term career opportunities within the film industry for underrepresented musicians, and we thank our partners within Universal Music Group and our Academy members, whose passion, dedication and expertise enable this work.”

“The life and legacy of Jonas Gwangwa’s commitment as an artist-activist who used music as a tool for social change is undeniable and it’s an honor to celebrate him with this program,” said Menna Demessie, Ph.D., senior vice president, UMG and executive director, Task Force for Meaningful Change. “This initiative will continue to help create space for a more diverse cadre of film music composers and ultimately provide career opportunities that will advance the industry itself.”

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