Trevor Jones, the well-known music composer who has worked on over 90 films, was in Johannesburg recently to visit the country of his birth. In Focus spoke to him about his illustrious career and the reasons
for his visit.

Q. You were recently involved in a South African production – please tell us about it.
A. Yes, I was approached in London by Mfundi Vundla, who asked me if I would work on a series he was shooting in South Africa called Jozi H. Although the budget was tight I agreed to the proposal. I did the underscore in my studio in London, but the music features South African artists and in spite of the limited budget there was no compromise on quality.

Q. Does your South African connection go back a long way?
A. I was born in District 6 in Cape Town. I was the eldest of three boys from a single-parent family. Life was hard.

Q. How did you get into music?
A. From the age of ten I showed an aptitude for music. I managed to get into the South African College of Music at the University of Cape Town and I spent seven years learning music. One of the teachers at the college thought I should play for a visiting professor from the Royal Academy of Music, and as a result I was offered a place to study at the academy. I then of course had to finance it somehow. Fortunately the matter was brought to the attention of the principal of the University of Cape Town. He created the Principal’s Scholarship, which got me to the academy, but I had to work to supplement the scholarship, which ran out after a year!

Q. This was obviously just the beginning, what happened next?
A. From 1970–75 I was the BBC’s classical music reviewer and from
1975–77 I attended York University in England and completed a BA Hons in Music. In 1978 I was a student at York University and the National Film School (NFS) and achieved an MA in Film Music and the Visual Arts. From 1978–80 I became the first student of film music composition at the NFS.
I graduated from the NFS having completed 23 student film scores. During my time there I studied production, direction, sound, cinematography and editing. Together with two fellow students we became the first graduates of the school to win an Oscar – for The Dollar Bottom – in the best
short film category.

Then in 1998 I was honoured with the title of Associate of the Royal Academy of Music (ARAM). In 1999 I was elected the first Chair of Music at the National Film and Television School of Great Britain, and in 2005 Archbishop Desmond Tutu conferred an honorary PhD from the University of the Western Cape. In 2006 I became a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music (FRAM).

Q. That is an astonishing career! What movies have
you worked on?

A. Among others I have composed music for Cliffhanger, Merlin, Roseanna's Grave, Aegis, The Last Place on Earth, The Last of the Mohicans, The Mighty, Fields of Freedom, The Dark Crystal and Dominic & Eugene. I have won several BAFTA, Ivor Novello and ASCAP awards.

Q. Why are you visiting Johannesburg?
A. I am here to promote the Trevor Jones Scholarship. In order to do this I need to get in touch with two groups of people, one being students and the other potential industry sponsors – in fact anyone who is prepared to donate anything, from R1 to a million rand. Although I am investing a lot of my own money, the scholarship needs additional funding. Several million rand is required in order to put a student through the National Film and Television School in the UK. Things are progressing and I already have a pledge, which the National Film & Video Foundation (NFVF) have said they will match, so things are moving forward. Mfundi Vundla is pivotal in this fundraising drive.

I know how important a scholarship is for students on a postgraduate level and I look forward to being able to send a local student overseas. There is one stipulation however – the student must return to South Africa and work in the industry, either as a practitioner or a teacher. South Africa must reap the benefits.