NBCUniversal’s Global Talent Development & Inclusion (GTDI) team has unveiled its eight diverse artists, five of which identify as female, for the 2021-23 Universal Composers Initiative.
The first-of-its-kind initiative aims to elevate artists that possess unique and global perspectives translating into distinctive musical expressions. With representation from countries such as Costa Rica, Hong Kong and Korea, the selected composers are Jina Hyojin An, Jocelyn Chambers, Pierre Charles, Pakk Hui, Raashi Kulkarni, Jesi Nelson, Daniel Rojas, and Dara Taylor.
Bringing to the table a wide range of varied life experiences with backgrounds in accounting, stand-up comedy and healthcare, this group of lauded violists, pianists, guitarists, vocalists and composers is brought together with a shared passion for music, which was undeniable from an early age: watch the moment they fell in love with music.
“We’re incredibly proud of the career momentum this initiative has generated with the support of NBCUniversal’s film and television music teams,” said Janine Jones-Clark, Executive Vice President, Inclusion – Talent & Content, NBCUniversal. “Along with our music partners, we are excited to welcome this talented and versatile group of musical multi-hyphenates and we look forward to giving them access and finding production opportunities across NBCUniversal’s portfolio.”
All eight composers from the inaugural group secured production credits either during or following the initiative, with 75% of those credits affiliated with NBCUniversal content. Alumni highlights include Ireland native Amie Doherty, the first female composer to score a DreamWorks Animation feature film (DreamWorks Animation’s Spirit Untamed and Focus Features’ The High Note); Jermaine Stegall (attached to an upcoming Will Packer Productions film); and George Shaw (attached to an upcoming DreamWorks Animation television series).
Launched in 2018, the two-year Universal Composers Initiative was created to address a void in data tracking diversity and female representation amongst composers. Confronting the issue head-on, GTDI, in partnership with Universal Global Film Music President Mike Knobloch and his team, set out to identify up-and-coming talent at various points in their creative journeys for music production opportunities across the Studio. The initiative has since expanded across the NBCUniversal portfolio, partnering closely with additional divisions including DreamWorks Animation Television Music and Universal Studio Group Music Services.
Read the bios of the artists for the Universal Composers Initiative below — and if you click on their name, you can listen to their musical inspirations. Their playlists are pretty great! You can also watch a video of the artists talking about where they found their passion for music.
Jina Hyojin An is a South Korean violist and composer based in Los Angeles. She has worked closely for Academy Award-winning composer Mychael Danna on numerous feature films, such as the Academy Award-nominated animated feature The Breadwinner, On the Basis of Sex, Disney Pixar’s Onward and others. Her burgeoning list of collaborations and projects also include comedy feature Freelancers Anonymous (Sonia Sebastian), as well as winning Best Original Score at the Nice International Film Festival in the short White Ink (Jacqueline Grajales), with work screened at the CAAMFEST in the documentary, A Letter for Sangah (Mina Fitzpatrick). Her concert music “Bla Bla Land” was selected to be part of the Helix Collective and Composers Diversity Collective’s collaborative album. Jina was also part of the 2020 AWFC Mentorship Program through which she was mentored by Golden Globe-nominated composer Harry Gregson-Williams. During her studies at Berklee College of Music, Jina was awarded the highest honor – The George Delerue Award. Jina was invited to join the team of industry stalwart Audiomachine in 2019, through whom she has a multitude of releases.
Born and raised in Austin, TX, Jocelyn C. Chambers became the first woman and black composer to win the Texas Young Composers Competition with her first orchestral piece “My Heart,” and won again the following year with her piece “Paradise (So This is Love, My Dear).” At 17, she entered the Butler School of Music’s composition program at the University of Texas at Austin and at 20, graduated with her bachelor’s degree and moved to Los Angeles to earn a graduate certificate in film scoring from UCLA. In the last year, Jocelyn completed the score for the short documentary, In Favor of Fetus, sharing the experiences of women affected by the Wisconsin’s Cocaine Mom law, and the feature documentary, Mama Gloria, highlighting the life of Black trans elder, Gloria Allen. Jocelyn has scored for advertising campaigns for Barking Owl and Found Objects, and her concert work has been programmed and commissioned by numerous ensembles nationwide including the London Guild of Horn Players, Reavis High School Choir, and Splinter Tongue Clarinet Quartet. In December 2020, she contributed to the Society of Composers and Lyricists’ Score Magazine with her article “#ScoringSoWhite: Examining Genre Bias and Representation as Composers Compassionately Advocate for Colleagues of Color.” She was featured in composer, author, and educator Nate Holder’s book “Where Are All the Black Female Composers?” and on his podcast “The Why Music Podcast” in February 2021.
Pierre Charles is a Los Angeles-based film composer and jazz pianist. Pierre began studying piano at the age of seven. After classical training, he began intense training in jazz piano, receiving mentorship from notable jazz greats including Ellis Marsalis, Dr. Ron Carter, and Victor Goines. In 2009 and 2012, Pierre received an Outstanding Soloist Award at the Essentially Ellington Competition and Festival in New York City. After completing a degree in Jazz Studies from Michigan State University, he attended the University of Southern California to earn a master’s degree in jazz studies while also studying film scoring. In 2017, Pierre released his debut album, Better, which showcases his compositional and jazz language. In 2019, he received the SABAM Award for The Most Original Composition by a Young International Composer at the World Soundtrack Awards in Ghent, Belgium. In addition to his own projects, including White Coat Rebels (Participant Media) and Musicology (Quibi), Pierre currently works with Emmy Award-winning composer, Kris Bowers. For Bowers, he has contributed music to several television shows and films including Showtime’s Black Monday, Netflix’s Bridgerton, and Hulu’s United States vs. Billie Holiday.
Originally from Hong Kong, Pakk Hui’s film music journey began as a young boy watching films with his family. A career in music, however, never felt like a real option for Pakk because his parents heavily pushed him to become a doctor. Pakk initially went on to pursue a career in the medical field but continued composing orchestral music as a creative outlet. This led him to follow his dreams at Boston’s world renowned Berklee College of Music where he studied film scoring and composition. Since relocating to Los Angeles in 2015, Pakk has worked with some of the biggest composers in Hollywood including John Debney, Marcelo Zarvos, Tony Morales, Toby Chu, Rob Cairns, Keith Power, and Brian Tyler. Pakk has contributed additional music on close to 300 television episodes, and over a dozen blockbuster films. He has scored numerous projects on his own, including the feature film Sway (Rooth Tang), an official selection at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, and the short film Tsuyako (Hikari), which won over 30 awards from festivals all around the world. His most recent credits include additional music and/or music arrangements for Hawaii Five-0, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Furious 7.
Raashi Kulkarni is a composer and pianist based in Los Angeles. She has been working with Emmy-nominated composer, Blake Neely, since 2017 and composes additional music on series such as The CW’s Supergirl, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, and The Flash. In 2019, she composed and orchestrated the music for the DC Universe’s first Bollywood-inspired musical, featured on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Raashi earned her Master of Music degree from University of Southern California, where she was a recipient of the Joe and Alice Harnell Scholar Award for Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television. Prior to USC, Raashi graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and a minor in Music from The George Washington University, where she was a Presidential Arts Scholar and recipient of the Barry Manilow Endowed Prize in Music. In the last decade, Raashi has performed in concert tours across the globe and as a featured pianist at the Shrine Auditorium, Kennedy Center, Smithsonian Museum, Patriot Center, Warner Theatre, Kodak Hall, and more. In addition, Raashi’s two independent music albums debuted at #1 (2018) and #2 (2020) on the iTunes World Music Charts, respectively. She is a voting member of both the Television Academy and Recording Academy.
Jesi Nelson is a Korean born, Wisconsin raised, Los Angeles-based composer for film & media. She is an alumna of the Sundance Film Music & Sound Design Lab and the recipient of the Sundance Institute and Time Warner Foundation grant. She is also an alumna of the prestigious ASCAP Composers Workshop with Richard Bellis (2018). Jesi scored Nijla Mu’min’s award winning feature film Jinn, which made its premiere at the 2018 SXSW to great acclaim. She was also chosen to write the music for the 2018 Sundance Film Festival trailer played before each film. She assisted composer Michael Kramer from 2015-2017, where she wrote additional music for two Emmy nominated series Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures and Lego Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu. She now co-composes with Kramer while also scoring her own projects. Her music scores MTV’s “Save Our Mom’s” campaign, directed by Minhal Baig and produced by Lena Waithe, and on May the 4th, 2021, Jesi became the first female and BIPOC lead composer on a Star Wars project when Lucasfilm released “Biomes” and “Vehicle Flythroughs” on Disney+. Jesi received her BFA in Music Composition and Technology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Master of Fine Arts in Music Composition for the Screen at Columbia College.
Born and raised in the Costa Rican town of Heredia, music has been around Daniel since childhood. After playing in bands and youth orchestras, Daniel decided to pursue music professionally at 15 years old and went on to study Jazz Guitar and Arranging at the University of North Texas, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude. In 2010, he moved to LA and began working as a freelance assistant and occasional guitarist at the studios of composers such as Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer, eventually composing additional music under Klaus and later deciding to open his own studio, 506 Music in Culver City. Daniel has written music for more than 60 feature films, TV shows, and video games, most recently the DreamWorks Animation series for Netflix, Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts. He is also the composer for the upcoming series, Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. on Hulu. Other titles featuring some of his music include the Oscar-winning film Room, Jodie Foster’s thriller Money Monster, and Alexander Payne’s sci-fi comedy, Downsizing. In addition to film scoring, he has produced and arranged tracks across genres for labels under Sony Music and Universal Music Group. In 2020, he received the ASCAP Foundation Harold Arlen Film & TV Award.
Dara Taylor’s credits include Lionsgate’s comedy Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, co-composed with Christopher Lennertz, the action crime drama Echo Boomers, the Netflix series Bookmarks and the Karen Allen-starred film Colewell, for which she won a 2019 Hollywood Music in Media award. Up next for Dara is the FX series Pride and the WB Animation series Little Ellen. Raised in Lockport, NY, Dara spent most of her formative years in gospel church choirs as well as school choruses, bands, and musicals. At Cornell University, Dara was drawn to composition and studied independently with Zachary Wadsworth and Pulitzer Prize-winner Steven Stucky. After graduating cum laude in Music and Psychology, Dara went on to study Film Music Composition under Mark Suozzo at New York University where she received a Master of Music. Dara was selected for Women in Film’s Women in Composers in Media Concert and chosen as one the BMI Conducting for Composers Fellows and as a fellow for the Sundance Institute Composers lab. Dara currently lives in Los Angeles and is a proud Executive Committee member for the Composers Diversity Collective, as well as a member of the Television Academy, Recording Academy, Society of Composers and Lyricists, Alliance of Women Film Composers, and Women in Media.