By Todd Corillo. Before international music fame, Pharrell Williams found his way in Virginia Beach. Long before Pharrell Williams was an internationally known music icon, getting the whole world to clap along to his hit song “Happy,” he was just a kid growing up in Virginia Beach. In the late 1980s, Williams was a student at what was then Independence Junior High School in Virginia Beach under the direction of Band Director Leon Edwards.
“I could tell he had a lot of passion even back then,” Edwards recalled to NewsChannel 3’s Todd Corillo. “He was a typical drummer, percussionist. They have their own type of personality. Kind of antsy and a little bit hyper,” he continued. In 2014, Williams returned home to Virginia Beach and was honored at his alma mater, Princess Anne High School. He thanked teachers like Edwards who helped propel him along the way.
“Life is like a mosaic. It’s a bunch of pieces. I’m just one piece, but the rest of the pieces are my teachers that kept pushing me,” Williams said at the time. All these years later, those who helped guide Williams still have vivid memories. “There’s one thing that sticks out in my mind, and he probably doesn’t remember this, but at that time we did a lot of parades. What we did to prepare for the parades was we would march outside around the track,” Edwards shared.
“Pharrell, he’s not big right now, he’s even smaller back then, and I remember him carrying the drum when we were marching around the track and I think we had a little bit further to go and he was leaning back like this and saying ‘Mr. Edwards, I can’t go any further’ and I said ‘Come on Pharrell, you can do it, come on’ and he finished it.” Even with all of his success and fame, Pharrell Williams has never forgotten his roots in Virginia Beach. “They say celebrities, I don’t use that word. I’m a local,” Williams said at Princess Anne. “If you notice, he’ll always bring up and let people know where he’s from. He wants to give the 757 plenty of recognition,” Edwards shared with a smile.