Jon Batiste wins Academy Award for Soul

Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross won the Oscar for best original score for their work on the hit Pixar film Soul.

It’s the first Academy Award for Batiste, whose original compositions helped bring to life the film’s main character, a high-school music teacher who still dreams of being a professional jazz musician.

With his victory, Batiste became only the second Black composer to win the Oscar for best original score in the award’s 86-year history. The first was Herbie Hancock for 1986’s Round Midnight.

“God gave us 12 notes,” Batiste said during his acceptance speech. “It’s the same 12 notes Duke Ellington had, Bach had, Nina Simone … Every gift is special. Every contribution with music that comes from the divine, into the instruments, into the film, into the minds and hearts and souls of every person who hears it. The stories that happen when you listen to it and watch it, the stories you share, the moments you create, the memories you make — man, it’s just so incredibly special.”

The trio were nominated alongside Emile Mosseri (Minari), Terence Blanchard (Da 5 Bloods) and James Newton Howard (News of the World). Reznor and Ross were also nominated a second time in the same category for their work on David Fincher’s Mank.

Soul also won the Oscar for best animated feature. Earlier this year, the film won the Golden Globe for both best original score and best animated feature film.

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Soul is the story of Joe Gardner, a middle-school music teacher who still dreams of making it as a jazz musician.

The film’s producers consulted various jazz notables including Herbie Hancock and Terri Lyne Carrington. Batiste wrote the original jazz compositions that were featured in the film, and his sessions were used as visual reference for the scenes of Joe playing the piano. Reznor and Ross composed the rest of the film’s score.

Batiste has entered an especially lucrative period of his career. Earlier this yearthe 34-year-old released a solo album called We Are, which he says is “just the beginning.” Batiste also continues to lead his band Stay Human on The Late Show every weeknight.