Motion Picture Academy, Mercury Studios launch initiative for Black British musicians

The program, named in honor of Jonas Gwangwa, is part of The Academy's global outreach effort to expand representation in film scoring.

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced a partnership with Mercury Studios to launch the Jonas Gwangwa Music Composition Initiative.

Set to begin in October 2022, the one-year career program aims to emphasize Black British musical talent with a broader focus on expanding representation in film scoring. It is open to Black UK-based musicians and artists with at least three years of composing experience.

The two initial participants in the Gwangwa initiative, to be selected through an application process, will have access to Academy members across disciplines who will help them understand the process of filmmaking. Other perks include mentorship by an Academy Music Branch member, introduction to leading figures in film music, and invitations to Academy events and screenings in London.

The program is named for Gwangwa, who died last year. The South African composer and musician received two Oscar nominations for his work on the 1987 film, “Cry Freedom,” for Best Original Score and Best Original Song. It is led by UK-based Academy Music Branch members Gary Yershon and Nainita Desai, and Writers Branch member Misan Sagay.

“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 in a statement. “Through this program, we seek to build community amongst Black artists in the UK by highlighting opportunities to bridge film and music careers.”

The Gwangwa initiative is part of The Academy’s ongoing Aperture 2025 global outreach and engagement efforts.

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

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