Sting went back to the classroom this week, assuming the role of a musical mentor for a group of college students.
The one-time school teacher surprised students in a music composition class at the University of Illinois at Chicago, barging in with MTV cameras in tow to speak and jam with them Monday.
The students, who had been told that their regular class was going to be filmed for a promotional video for the university, erupted in cheers as Sting and his band entered through a side door.
He started by playing “Message In A Bottle,” a hit with the Police, the rock trio that he led to fame during the 1970s and ’80s. Sting played an electric bass, accompanied by two acoustic guitars and a shaker.
He later took questions from the audience, discussing unusual time signatures, his music influences and his composition techniques.
“A blank page terrifies me, that’s why I tour so much,” Sting said of his own songwriting experience. “The more I figure out about music, the more I realize I haven’t a clue.”
He advised the students not to sweat the details and to keep playing music as a way to nourish the soul.
“We’re not building cathedrals of sound here, we’re building sheds,” he said.
He finished the class inviting the students to join him and his band in an extended jam of his biggest hit, “Every Breath You Take.”
“It was amazing,” said junior Jenne Lennon after Sting asked her to play a solo on her Native American flute during the jam session. “Opportunities like that come only once in a lifetime, and I’m completely shocked.”
The class was filmed for a program called “Stand In,” which will air on mtvU next Monday. MTV’s 24-hour college network, mtvU is available to about 6.4 million students on 700 campuses nationwide.
Sting is currently touring college campuses and other venues backed by only two guitarists and a drummer, a configuration reminiscent of his days with the Police.