The music mogul showed up at NYU to deliver a special masterclass and was pleasantly surprised when he heard this student's work.
It's always great to have a notable artist listen to a piece of your music and provide constructive criticism on it. A bunch of students at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music were lucky enough to have musician, producer and songwriter Pharrell Williams give them a special visit on a special occasion. According to NYU's website, the Grammy-winning music artist was invited as the 50th-anniversary artist-in-residence at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
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They hosted a unique and private masterclass for undergraduate students at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, which is under the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. The one-hour-long masterclass involved faculty members Bob Power and Jason King as well. Williams heard the music projects of each student who explained the creative process behind their projects and gave them constructive criticism. However, one student named Maggie Rogers left Williams spellbound and speechless with her composition.
A favourite video: in 2016, Pharrell visits an NYU music class to critique student songs, but during one session he realises he has stumbled upon someone extraordinary. pic.twitter.com/6HnkqLhDd7— Daniel Susskind (@danielsusskind) December 8, 2023
In a YouTube video summarizing the masterclass, we see a bunch of students presenting their music projects to Williams as he responds to them with compliments and some useful advice to help them improve. But when Rogers' turn came, Williams was not prepared for what he was about to hear. She explained to the musician that her song might need "a couple more hours of mixing and mastering" and then played him her melodious assignment titled "Alaska."
Williams is immediately impressed and it's clear from his facial expressions. “I was walking through icy streams that took my breath away,” Rogers' voice streams out of the audio system. Williams' eyes widen, his mouth opens and he glances over at her and appears astounded. “I have zero, zero, zero notes for that. I’ve never heard anyone like you before and I’ve never heard anyone that sounds like that,” Williams finally told Rogers. Rogers' nervousness at the beginning started to drift away as she took in the compliments from a seasoned artist.
"You are doing your own thing. It's singular," Williams continued, even comparing the excellence of the beats used in her song to Wu-Tang Clan. "That's a wonderful quality that we all have in us, but you have to be willing to seek, you have to be willing to be real frank in your music. You have to be frank in your choices," he said. William added another compliment to her by saying that he "could hear her entire story in her music." The now-29-year-old Rogers continues to make soulful music like usual and we bet she took those kind words from Williams and carried them with her throughout her music career.
“The idea behind the masterclass was to have Pharrell work directly with our students,” King remarked at the time. "To give them ideas about how to shape the music they’re making. It’s our mission to train students as creative entrepreneurs and few artists have married the art and business of recorded music as successfully as Pharrell.”
“The school is fortunate to have Pharrell Williams as our artist-in-residence. He began the year with a thought-provoking school-wide conversation. Now, his gift that will fund a scholarship for an aspiring music mogul is a true testament to Pharrell’s generous spirit and his dedication to education,” said Allyson Green, the dean at Tisch School of the Arts. “I am deeply grateful to Pharrell Williams for being such a strong role model for all of us.”
i love that she was super nervous and got deep into her own song anyway. one of my favourites. such a compelling case for uniqueness.— Daniel Y. (@civic_cat) December 9, 2023
Shivers. Such a moment. I love her nervousness that melts into grooving— Jack Langworthy (@langworthiest) December 9, 2023
In addition to hosting the masterclass, Williams and his wife Helen also offered to fund a need-based scholarship, making it possible for a high school student to attend the Clive Davis Institute’s highly sought-after Summer High School Program. The scholarship would go to a candidate who demonstrates high artistic skill and achievement, exceptional dedication and a high level of financial need. The selected student would receive specialized training in music business entrepreneurship through instruction, special field trips and immersion in the culture of the New York City music industry.