Paul McCartney Surprises NYC High School Students With Concert

The former Beatle gave a master class at performing arts school.

Oct. 10, 2013— -- Four hundred students in a New York City high school for the performing arts got the shock of their lives when Paul McCartney strolled into their concert hall this week and rocked out a performance to celebrate the release of his new album.

The students at Frank Sinatra High School of the Arts in Astoria, Queens, were thrilled when the music legend came on stage and sat down to play on a psychedelic colored piano Wednesday.

"They went bananas," said production manager Andre Vasquez, who was in charge of sound check. "It was a complete surprise until the end, just before they announced who was coming on stage."

Proving his appeal to a new generation of emerging artists and musicians, the 71-year-old ex-Beatle performed a set of 13 tunes alongside a four-piece band on two different guitars and what his crew call "The Magic Piano."

"When Paul McCartney was popular in the '60s, these children weren't even born," said school Principal Donna Finn.

"The students knew all the words to all these songs," said Finn. She said the uncontrollable level of excitement that filled the room "was reminiscent of Shea Stadium when the Beatles stepped off the plane at Kennedy Airport and all the girls were screaming."

"This beats going to class," McCartney told cheering students at the performance, during which he played classic hits like "Hey Jude," "Eight Days a Week" and a solo acoustic rendition of "Blackbird," according to the Associated Press.

McCartney also included some new compositions from his first original album in six years, which is simply titled "New," and answered a range of questions from the excited teenagers.

One student asked why McCartney continues to make music. He said that when people ask him if he'll retire, he responds with "Thank you very much. No."

He also said he could be at home watching TV, but would rather be performing and there with the students instead.

"You guys have an advantage," McCartney said about the fact he never received formal musical training. "You're getting an education."

"I was singing along, I was dancing, everybody was standing up in their seats," a dance major student, Victoria Maglaris, 17, told ABC News. "It was amazing. It was such a breath of fresh air and it was so surprising."

In the lead up to the concert, false reports had flown around the school that Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake or Beyonce would be playing a surprise concert.

"People were spreading all sorts of rumors," said Vasquez. "It leaked out because students saw some of his cases that had his name on them, but a lot of kids still didn't know until the last minute."

Those students who knew in advance came dressed in Beatles shirts, and some girls even turned up in full '60s garb, said Vasquez who also said it was "the best experience of my life."

McCartney's wife, Nancy Shevell, sat among the crowd of gushing students in the concert hall. The couple celebrated their second wedding anniversary on Wednesday – the same day that would have been John Lennon's 73rd birthday.

Tony Bennett, who help found the public high school for young artists along with the city in 2001, was also present at the master class.

The school is named after Bennett's best friend and colleague. He has previously hosted Billy Joel for a guest master class in May.

McCartney's parting words were lapped up by an inspired audience who continued to sing "Hey Jude" minutes after the star had left the stage.

"You rock on," encouraged McCartney shortly before exiting. "You be great. You be lovely in your careers."

McCartney's "New" will be released on Tuesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report