Sir Elton John hosted a Question and Answer with students at the London Royal Academy of Music, which he attended at the shockingly young age of 11.

It was at the age of 16 that he decided to quit classical music and head towards a career in rock and roll.

However, he puts his success down to those early years spent at the Academy playing scales.

“In those days, the Academy meant classical music and nothing else – certainly no rock ‘n roll. That was the devil’s music. But without my training, I never would’ve been able to write the songs I’ve written,” he said to Classic FM.

“I’m so grateful for my classical training. I played Chopin and Mozart and Debussy, and to be part of the choir was incredibly fulfilling. Singing in a choir is such a moving, life-affirming experience.”

Despite reaching superstardom, John is not unaware of the lacking presence of music in schools today.

“A lot of schools [now] have taken music out of the curriculum and I find that really appalling, because music is so inspiring and for kids that have the ability or want to play music, there’s no outlet for this in schools anymore. It’s tragic.”

Today, eight Royal Academy students a year are on the Elton John Scholarship, which is a fund reserved for young musicians who would otherwise be unable to afford the fees.

Four of those students stood up at the Question and Answer and spoke about what they had achieved due to the sponsorship.

This article originally appeared on Over60.