Before composing his 1982 synth-pop hit "She Blinded Me With Science," Thomas Dolby sketched out the story line for the music video. That's not just rock 'n' roll trivia—it's one of the experiences Dolby can lean on as he teaches film and music students at Johns Hopkins University, a school known more for medical science and research than the arts. Not bad for a guy whose formal education ended at age 16. He began teaching his "Sound on Film" class Friday at Hopkins' Peabody Institute music conservatory.
Dolby's wacky video about a home for demented scientists became a favorite on MTV, which was then about a year old, helping propel the song to No. 5 on Billboard's US charts. Dolby, 55, released three more albums over the next 10 years that cemented his reputation as an electronic music pioneer. In the 1990s, Dolby moved on to film and video-game scoring and founded a Silicon Valley company that created software enabling cellphones to produce musically rich ring tones. School administrators can hardly believe they've landed a bona fide rock-star professor. Paul Mathews, a Peabody associate dean, said he was stunned when Dolby applied for the post in January. Mathews said he still listens to Dolby's albums. (Read more Thomas Dolby stories.)