Motion Picture Academy and UMG Renew Jonas Gwangwa Music Composition Initiative

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in partnership with Universal Music Group, has announced the renewal of the the Jonas Gwangwa Music Composition Initiative, a development program for Black musicians interested in composing music for film.

The initiative is in honor of South African musician, composer and Oscar nominee Jonas Gwangwa, who died in 2021. He received Oscar nominations for original score and original song for his work, with George Fenton, on “Cry Freedom.” The program, which was launched back in 2022, aims to provide mentorship and networking opportunities for aspiring Black composers to foster broader representation in film music composition.

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In its second year, the initiative comes together in partnership with UMG’s Task Force for Meaningful Change (TFMC), along with 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 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.”

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 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.

Academy members will be available as resources across various branches for participants to gain an understanding of the filmmaking process. Additional perks include 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.

“After an incredibly successful first year, the Academy is excited for the second year of 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, and we thank our partners within Universal Music Group and our Academy members, whose passion, dedication and expertise enable this work.”

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

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