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An inspirational visit

When it comes to modern musical phenomena originating from the Hampton Roads area, one name is usually the first to come to mind — Pharrell Williams.

The Virginia Beach native and singer, rapper, songwriter, record producer and entrepreneur is well known throughout the area, and his positive profile increased with the successful Something in the Water festival in 2019 in Virginia Beach.

So when Pharrell, as he’s popularly known, dropped in on a virtual class being held by Nansemond River High School instructor Dr. Joleen Neighbors for her women’s choir, it was a big surprise.

“It honestly felt like a dream,” sophomore Jayla Harris said.

The students in the class got to use a new program called Ear Sketch, which uses code to remix music, to remix Williams’ song “Entrepreneur.” The song addresses the hardships of minority business owners.

The appearance was part of a program called “Your Voice is Power,” a partnership among Williams’ nonprofit, YELLOW, Amazon and Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech produced the Ear Sketch software.

While the students played with Williams’ song, they got the chance to talk with Williams about a wide range of topics including social justice issues, the business of music, career options, and entrepreneurship. The young women in the class got the chance to think about their future options.

“It opened my eyes to a world of careers that would interest me,” Harris said.

For the students in Neighbors’ class who were inspired by Williams’ visit, and for the many others who will benefit from this partnership in the future, we say thank you to YELLOW and to Pharrell Williams for inspiring our young people.