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Academy and UMG Renew Jonas Gwangwa Music Composition Initiative

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in collaboration with Universal Music Group, has renewed the Jonas Gwangwa Music Composition Initiative, a development program specifically aimed at Black musicians eager to compose music for film.

The initiative is a tribute to Jonas Gwangwa, a South African musician, composer, and Oscar nominee who passed away in 2021. Gwangwa was nominated for both original score and original song for his work on “Cry Freedom,” a project he co-composed with George Fenton. Launched in 2022, the program aims to provide mentorship and networking prospects to Black composers to enhance representation in film music composition.

In its second year, the initiative continues its partnership with UMG’s Task Force for Meaningful Change (TFMC), Mercury Studios, Universal Music Publishing Group Classics and Screen, Decca Records, and UMG’s Globe.

“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, senior vice president of UMG and executive director of the Task Force for Meaningful Change. “This initiative aims to create space for a more diverse cadre of film music composers and ultimately provide career opportunities that will advance the industry itself.”

The program is open to Black artists and composers based in the U.K. and the U.S. who have at least three years of experience as musicians. Through an application process, four participants will be chosen—two from the U.K. and two from the U.S.

Participants will be paired with a filmmaker in the process of making a short film, providing the opportunity to compose music for the project. Each participant will receive a grant to support their film composition efforts.

Academy members will be accessible as resources across various branches to help participants understand the filmmaking process. Additional benefits include one-on-one mentorship with a member of the Academy’s Music Branch to learn about the practical aspects of film composition; access to Academy events and screenings in London and Los Angeles; and introductions to leading practitioners in the field of film music, among other mentorship programs.

“After an incredibly successful first year, the Academy is excited for the second year of the Jonas Gwangwa Music Composition Initiative,” said Kendra Carter, Academy senior VP of impact and global talent development. “Our goal for this program is to stimulate long-term career opportunities within the film industry for underrepresented musicians. We extend our gratitude to our partners within Universal Music Group and our Academy members, whose passion, dedication, and expertise make this work possible.”

Applications for the Jonas Gwangwa Music Composition Initiative are currently open.

Source: Universal Music Group, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences