04/20/2005 at 09:00 AM EDT
Sting, who once taught school, reverted to his old profession in Chicago this week, serving as a surprise musical mentor to a group of college students.
The British rocker, 53 – accompanied by MTV cameras – popped through a side door into a music composition class at the University of Illinois at Chicago to speak and jam with the class on Monday, Reuters reports.
Student reaction? Cheers. (The kids had only been told they would be filmed for a university promotional video.)
He started by playing the Police hit "Message In A Bottle." Sting played an electric bass, accompanied by two acoustic guitars and a shaker.
Later fielding questions from his educated audience, Sting also confided: "A blank page terrifies me, that's why I tour so much" and. "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.
"It was amazing," said junior Jenne Lennon, after Sting asked her to play a solo on her Native American flute during an extended jam session of his biggest hit, "Every Breath You Take." "Opportunities like that come only once in a lifetime, and I'm completely shocked."