Pharrell Williams Surprises NYC Students During 'Hidden Figures' Presentation
The singer appeared at the George Washington Educational Campus as they performed songs he wrote for the Fox film.
A wave of children stormed through the doors of George Washington Educational Campus in New York City on Friday to watch artist/producer Pharrell Williams partner up with AMP UP NYC’s music initiative to deliver a captivating performance for its local community.
Unaware that the “Happy” singer would show face at their concert, a bevy of sixth graders from The Equity Project Charter School’s music band skated through two new songs both written by Williams for the upcoming film Hidden Figures. After gliding through “I See a Victory,” they dived right into his second song, “Runnin’” — a song Williams released back in October — for their concert attendees. As they began performing, TEP’s music director Alan Davis halted the performance to surprise everyone with their concert’s special guest, Pharrell.
Welcomed by loud cheers and teary-eyed students, the music savant emerged from the back of the stage and greeted each child who contributed to the performance. Shaken by his presence onstage, 12-year-old Jayri Alvarez caved during her performance and broke down into tears. “I was so confused at first because when Mr. Davis — who’s my teacher — said, ‘Oh, Pharrell. Come on out.’ I was like, ‘No! This is not happening. He’s not coming out. How did they manage to put this all together?” she told Billboard.
Williams encouraged Alvarez to continue crooning away to his powerful record ‘Runnin,’ as he studiously watched her weave her way through the song. After her performance, Pharrell thanked AMP UP for playing an integral role in providing kids an opportunity to express their musical gifts.
“Thanks to the program for having me come out today and meet with such talented, talented, talented artists. We need more charter schools like [TEP],” Pharrell said to the crowd.
Then, he began thanking the kids of TEP for their beaming rendition of his new records, which will live on the soundtrack for Hidden Figures, where he and composer Hans Zimmer produced the score for the movie. “I want you guys to know that you’re the first set of musicians that I was lucky enough to hear replay those songs. The movie is not even out yet and you guys are already playing the songs, and you sound so much better than me,” Williams gushed.
“There’s so many bright minds in this room and when I say bright, I don’t mean from the light, I’m talking about intelligence. I could feel it. I could feel the smart people in this room right now. And I’m honored to be here,” he added.
“He said I sounded amazing," said Alvarez after taking pictures with the acclaimed producer. "I was crying even more because he sounds so much better than I do. Hearing him say something like that to me makes me feel so special. It makes me feel really nice,” she said wiping the tears from her eyes.
Since 2014, the Berklee College of Music joined forces with Little Kids Rock and New York’s Department of Education to allow young children the priceless opportunity of channeling their musical talents despite their hardships. The glowing initiative has already reached close to 70,000 kids in over 600 public schools around New York.
Hidden Figures, starring Taraji Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae, features three African American women who helped astronaut John Glenn orbit into space, despite dealing with innumerable counts of prejudice on their way there. The movie will be released Dec. 25.
A version of this story first appeared on Billboard.com.