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June 30, 2016
Academy Increases Diversity in Music Branch
26 composers, music editors, songwriters invited; nearly half female by Jon Burlingame

HOLLYWOOD—Twenty-six composers, songwriters and music editors have been invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, part of the largest crowd ever to be asked, the Academy announced on Wednesday.

In all, the Academy invited 683 film artists, craftspeople and executives to join; 46 percent are female and 41 are people of color, according to statistics provided by the Academy. Assuming all accept the invitation, that would improve the numbers from the current 25 percent female and 8 percent people of color to new levels of 27 percent female and 11 percent people of color.

Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs

Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs

The music branch, which currently consists of approximately 240 composers, songwriters and music editors, will now jump to nearly 270 members. Said Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs: "This class continues our long-term commitment to welcoming extraordinary talent reflective of those working in film today. We encourage the larger creative community to open its doors wider, and create opportunities for anyone interested in working in this incredible and storied industry."

Composer Laura Karpman (photo courtesy of Laura Karpman)

Composer Laura Karpman
photo courtesy of Laura Karpman

Said Laura Karpman, who was the first American female composer to be invited into the music branch (and one of four current finalists for music-branch governor): "It is an historic day for the Academy. We opened our doors and we opened our minds. We're looking at our community as it truly is. There is a musical and racial diversity; it's plural voices. It shows where the hearts of people really are."

Twelve of the 26 invitees to the music branch are women: composers Lesley Barber (Mansfield Park), Wendy Blackstone (Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger), Kathryn Bostic (Dear White People), Germaine Franco (Dope), Deborah Lurie (Safe Haven) and Heather McIntosh (Z for Zachariah); music editors Joanie Diener (American Beauty), Amanda Goodpaster (X-Men: Apocalypse) and Tanya Noel Hill (The Jungle Book); and songwriters Mary J. Blige (The Help), Sia Furler (Zootopia) and Taura Stinson (Black Nativity).

The 14 male invitees include composers Carl Davis (The French Lieutenant's Woman), Peter Golub (Countdown to Zero), Marcus Miller (About Last Night), Antonio Pinto (Love in the Time of Cholera), Raphael Saadiq (Black Nativity), Joseph Trapanese (Straight Outta Compton), Shigeru Umebayashi (The Grandmaster), Fernando Velasquez (Crimson Peak) and Marcelo Zarvos (Rock the Kasbah); music editors Joseph S. DeBeasi (The Revenant), Jim Schultz (Black Mass) and Del Spiva (Fury); and songwriters Fitzgerald Diggs, better known as The RZA (Django Unchained) and Will.i.am (The Great Gatsby).

Diversity was the order of the day not only in terms of inviting women but also non-whites and those from abroad. At least eight are people of color, and at least five of the composers are international (Barber is Canadian, Pinto and Zarvos are Brazilian, Velasquez Spanish, Umebayashi Japanese).

Also invited to join the Academy as members-at-large were Universal President of Film Music Mike Knobloch and DreamWorks Animation Executive in Charge of Music Sunny Park.

New members are chosen in several ways: they can be sponsored by current members; are routinely asked if they are nominated for an Oscar; or are chosen by the branch executive committee based on a review of their credits.

©2016 Jon Burlingame
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