04.04.05 School of rock...


Sting spoke to an invite-only gathering of 30 University students about his book, 'Broken Music,' before he performed at Mac Court

The class sat in silent rapture, the students' attention trained on the man sitting in front of them. The scene had the appearance of just another lecture, except for one extraordinary thing - the person leading the class was music legend Sting.

Sting, who performed at McArthur Court on Sunday, engaged 30 students before his performance in a discussion on how and why he wrote his memoir 'Broken Music', a New York Times best seller. Students for the class, which was kept a secret, were selected from the English and creative writing departments, English department head and professor Warren Ginsberg said.

Although Sting later admitted he was a little nervous, he seemed to be at ease in the classroom. Dressed casually in a black sweater, gray pants and worn suede shoes, he made his entrance with little fanfare and spent about an hour candidly sharing his thoughts on writing and music, often infusing the conversation with small snippets of humor that elicited laughter from the audience.

Many biographies on the musician's life have been composed, but when he read them, Sting said he did not always recognize the person in those accounts. He wanted to write his own book that would allow him to explore his life as he saw it.

"I'd felt a little bitter; they were not telling my story," he said.

'Broken Music' is his story. It recounts Sting's childhood and adolescence and his early days as a musician. He said the book's title refers to an expression his grandmother used to describe his early piano playing. It is also a term from the Elizabethan era that denotes music written for different parts.

Sting read several excerpts from the book, his expressive voice giving life to the detailed scenes on the page. In one excerpt he describes how he drew inspiration to write the renowned song 'Roxanne'.

"I sing that song every night I perform," he said. "I'll sing that song tonight."

In his writing, he said he wanted to make sense of his "chaotic life" rather than give a "journalistic blow by blow of my life." He chose to describe events he believed would be compelling to the reader, he said.

One of the book's main themes is the musician's complex relationship with his parents. His father was a milkman and his mother a housewife.

"My parents were terrible parents," he said. "They had no idea what they were doing, but I love them. It wasn't a happy childhood, but I am grateful for it."

Sting said he considers himself a "hugely fortunate human being."

"In telling the story, I really wanted to give as much credit to the people in my life who'd made a difference, ...because they made a huge difference," he said.

He wrote the book after his parents' deaths and admits that he probably would not have penned the memoir if they still were alive. While others who have written about him place emphasis on the "larger-than-life rockstar," Sting said he wanted to show that his "life has been much more normal than that."

"This story is one that nobody knows," he said, adding that some elements in the book surprised even his brother and sister. He said he wanted to be honest and candid.

"This book was very therapeutic," he said of the writing process. "A lot of it was painful. A lot of it was laugh-out-loud funny."

Sting said he kept a journal for years, which made it easier to conjure up different events. "We never forget anything," he said. "One memory, you pull it out of the well, you pull out another 10. ...We are our memories."

Sting said he has chosen to live his life without any certainties and he doesn't have all the answers.

"I don't know why we're here," he said. "I'm intrigued by people who are trying to find out. I run a mile from people who claim they know."

Ginsberg, who helped to arrange the class, said he liked the memoir and thought the class was beneficial to the students, who asked many questions.

"There was real interesting conversation that ensued," Ginsberg said.

"I thought it was really good; it was very fun and engaging," junior Matt Worlock said. "And I got to meet Sting."

Senior Robin Elliott, who said the first music video she ever saw was by the Police, said she appreciated the memoir's personal accounts and having Sting explain them in the class. "I really enjoyed the insight," she said.

Sting's performance at Mac Court marks the first time he has played in a college in 25 years, he said.

David Sandford, from Kathryn Schenker Management, which is managing Sting's tour, said the musician is scheduled to play at various other colleges around the country.

"We're just looking for some great college markets," Sandford said. "We're really trying to do something different."

He added that the stop in Eugene was another way to connect to people, something that is very important to Sting.

Sting said stardom can be very lonely.

"I want to be connected because I am a real person with a real life," he said. "I want to get away from that Sting thing. I want to connect desperately."

© The Oregon Daily Emerald by Ayisha Yahya