Academy launches Jonas Gwangwa music initiative for black composers

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced the launch of the Jonas Gwangwa Music Composition Initiative, a program to help black British musicians who want to develop a career in film composition.

The program begins in October and is in partnership with Mercury Studios. In honor of the late South African musician, composer and Oscar nominee Jonas Gwangwa (“Cry Freedom”), the program will provide real-world experience, one-on-one mentorship and networking opportunities.

As part of the Academy’s Aperture 2025 global outreach and engagement efforts, the initiative aims to foster wider representation in film music composition, with a focus on Black British talent. The initiative was spearheaded by UK-based Academy members Gary Yershon (Music Branch), Misan Sagay (Writers Branch) and Nainita Desai (Music Branch).

“This initiative aims to correct an imbalance. Unlike the major contributions black musicians make to the music industry in the UK, their presence in the UK film industry is significantly lacking,” Yershon, Sagay and Desai said in a statement. “Through this scheme, we seek to build community among black artists in the UK by 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 participants will be chosen for the program and will have access to members of the Academy in various branches in order to better understand the process of making a film; one-on-one mentorship with a member of the Academy’s music branch to learn more 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.

In addition, 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.

Two grants from Universal Music Group’s Mercury Studios, a full-service global film and television production studio, and Decca Records will help fund the songwriting work. Additional programming and support will be provided by Abbey Road Studios.

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

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