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Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in partnership with Mercury Studios launches the Jonas Gwangwa Music Composition Initiative

Jonas Gwangwa Music Composition Initiative

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in partnership with Mercury Studios, today announced the launch of the Jonas Gwangwa Music Composition Initiative, a one-year career development program for Black British musicians interested in composing music for film.  In celebration of the late South African musician, composer and Oscar nominee Jonas Gwangwa, the program will provide real-world experience, one-on-one mentorship and networking opportunities, beginning in October 2022.


Jonas Gwangwa Music Composition Initiative

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, with an emphasis on Black British talent.  Its creation was spearheaded by UK-based Academy members Gary Yershon (Music Branch), Misan Sagay (Writers Branch) and Nainita Desai (Music Branch).

“This initiative seeks to correct an imbalance.  In contrast to the major contributions Black musicians are making to the music industry in the UK, their presence in the UK film industry is significantly lacking,” said Yershon, Sagay and Desai.  “Through this program, we seek to build community amongst Black artists in the UK by highlighting opportunities to bridge film and music careers.”

The program is open to UK-based Black artists and composers with at least three years of work experience as a musician.  Two participants, selected through an application process, will receive access to Academy members across various branches in order 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 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. The composition work will be funded by two grants from Universal Music Group’s Mercury Studios, a full-service, global production film and television studio, and Decca Records.  Additional programming and support will be provided by Abbey Road Studios.

Gwangwa, who died in 2021, was a prominent South African jazz musician and composer.  He received Oscar nominations for Original Score and Original Song for his work, with George Fenton, on “Cry Freedom” (1987).

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

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