04.12.05 Sting gives BSU students a once in a lifetime music lesson...


Sting, while on the Broken Music Tour, guest lectures at a music class at Boise State University. He spoke about theory & composition and his own songwriting process.

For most BSU students, last Saturday afternoon was just like any other typical weekend. Students probably spent the day doing homework, working, or sleeping. However, for 30 music majors, Saturday was anything but ordinary, because they got to spend an hour with Sting.

At 1 p.m. in room B213 of the Morrison Center, Sting and his guitar players Dominic Miller and Shane Fontayne, gave both a music lesson and an intimate concert for upper level composition and theory majors. Students who attended had to be invited beforehand by the music department. According to the department's administrative secretary, Heather Calkins, Sting's management called with the idea for the class.

The setting on Saturday was far from formal with Sting casually strolling into the small classroom in a gray t-shirt and sweat pants. He took a seat on top of an amp in the front of the classroom and started the lesson.

"I'm a little nervous," Sting said as he kept unsuccessfully trying to plug his guitar into the amp. "I played at Shea stadium in front of thousands, but in front of you guys I'm a wreck."

Sting said he did not have a set way to teach the class, so he decided to "wing it" by starting with a song and then going from there.

They played 'Message in a Bottle' first, which was also the opening song at his concert later that evening. Throughout the song, Sting made comments like "too high" when he missed a note singing. The students listened intently to the personal concert tapping their feet to the beat and laughing at Sting's humorous remarks.

After the song, Sting explained the inception and history of the song. He said he wrote it 30 years ago in a basement apartment in London with a dog by his side.

"It's a nice little riff," he said. "I had no idea it would become a hit record." Sting said he likes the song because it is "quirky" with a time count of 7/8. "I don't like common time very much."

Sting explained he prefers to write the music of a song before he writes the lyrics, because the structure helps him shape the song.

"Song form has a kind of architectural integrity," he said, also bringing up the aspect of bridges in music. According to Sting, bridges are very important, because they allow a shift of focus and viewpoint.

"Whoever invented the bridge is a genius," he said. "It is not only a musical tool, but a psychological tool."

Sting, Miller, and Fontayne then played the song 'I'm So Happy, I Can't Stop Crying' to demonstrate the power a bridge can have. They later played the song 'The Hounds of Winter' to illustrate a song without a bridge. According to Sting, the song is miserable, because it doesn't have a bridge to relieve the gloom.

"I think you can reflect life with a song," Sting said. He continued by saying that while music can reflect life, it cannot change the world.

"It doesn't matter whether you make it, music is soul nourishing. It will restore you, nourish you, and give you grace," Sting said.

The students were also able to ask Sting, Miller, and Fontayne questions and even give them constructive criticism. While no student ventured to critique the musicians, they did ask several questions regarding the musicians' creative process and inspirations.

Sting gave the students advice on everything from writer's block to collaborating with other musicians.

"It helps to work with musicians who are better than you," Sting said, acknowledging his two guitar players.

He said music is an ongoing and changing knowledge. "I am 53 years-old and still regard myself as a student of music," Sting said. He claimed that his mission in life is to progress as a musician. "The more you learn, the more you realize what you don't know."

© The Arbiter Online by Mariana Bekker