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Academy launches Jonas Gwangwa Music Composition Initiative to support Black British Film Composers

When Parasite made headlines for being the first non-English language film to win Best picture in 2020, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences wants to eliminate unconscious bias in its governors to reward international talent better.

They partnered with Mercury Studios to launch the Jonas Gwangwa Music Composition Initiative. This would be a one-year career development aimed at Black British musicians seeking to study music composition for film. 

Some benefits include real-world experience, networking opportunities, and one-on-one mentorships for its participants. Most of these will begin in October. This is all part of the Academy’s ongoing Aperture 2025 global outreach and engagement efforts. 

This new diversity standard for best picture nominees is meant to widen the lens for acknowledging excellence. The main objective of this initiative is to foster a broader representation in film music composition for Black British artists. 

The idea was the brainchild of Academy members based in the U.K who had witnessed firsthand the film music potential of Black British artists. These members were Nainita Desai and Gary Yershon from the music branch and Misan Sagay from the writers’ branch.

All three stated that the Jonas Gwangwa initiative seeks to correct an imbalance. They are aware of Black musicians’ contributions to the music industry in the U.K but acknowledge that their presence in the film industry is lacking. The program wants to foster a stronger community of Black artists composing music for film and bridging their careers.

Some of their requirements include three years of work experience as a musician for all U.K-based black artists, with two participants selected through an application process and receiving access to Academy members in several branches to understand the filmmaking process better.

Jonas Gwangwa was a famous South African trombonist, composer, and vocalist. He was one of the lead artistic ambassadors for anti-apartheid resistance and an important figure in South African Jazz. He became well-known in the United States in the 60s and was featured in a Sound of Africa concert at Carnegie Hall, sharing the stage with Hugh Masekela, Letta Mbulu, and Miriam Makeba.

This is a great opportunity to broaden representation in film composition, allowing Black artists to showcase their talent internationally.

Applications for the Jonas Gwangwa Music Composition Initiative are currently open. Visit https://oscars.org/learn/jonas-gwangwa-initiative  for more information.

Words by Sebastian Caledron.

 

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