Sir Paul McCartney thrilled students at a performing arts school in Queens, New York on Wednesday (09Oct13) when he showed up unannounced to play a 13-song set.

Almost 400 students crammed into the Frank Sinatra School for the Arts' auditorium to check out a billed "special guest" and were left stunned when the former Beatle and his band greeted them.

MCCartney performed three tracks from his upcoming new album, titled New, and classics from his back catalogue, including the Beatles hits Eight Days a Week and Hey Jude, which opened and closed the 90-minute set.

School founder Tony Bennett and MCCartney's wife Nancy Shevell were among the audience for the intimate show, which took place on what would have been the 73rd birthday of the singer's songwriting partner John Lennon.

The day also marked MCCartney and Shevell's second wedding anniversary.

Answering questions from students during the show, the rocker joked, "I could be home watching the Tv now (but) I'd rather be here."

When one wannabe asked him what was the greatest lesson he learned as a young musician, MCCartney replied, "I was terrified of doing anything wrong on stage, but then I learned that people don't mind. They actually kind of like it!"