Bonnie Hayes

Chair

“I started out as a jazz player, but when I started writing songs, I didn’t want to write jazz songs. I had gone to see the Sex Pistols in Atlanta, and I was like, ‘Dang, those guys can do whatever they want.’ I played in a lot of bands. I played with Billy Idol. I started out as a Miles Davis and John Coltrane freak and then all of a sudden I’m playing this kind of bonehead rock ‘n’ roll. What I figured out is that every kind of music has something awesome about it. You just have to find it and embrace it.”

“When I moved out of my mom’s house, I didn’t go to college; I started teaching full time at Blue Bear School of Music—theory classes and these band workshops where we’d put people in a band and rehearse them and then they’d do a show. I don’t think there were many other schools in the country doing that 40 years ago except maybe Berklee. So I started teaching really early, and I’ve always been a big proponent of music education.”

“When a songwriter has learned technique, I can hear it in their writing. When you go to write songs at Berklee, you’re not in ‘good’ mode. You’re in ‘excellence’ mode, and you’ve got to show up with skills and technique. One main reason that I teach songwriting is that you need to have skills for when you run out of inspiration. Those skills are hard to find and even harder to teach, but you have those people at Berklee. The songwriting faculty is amazing. Songwriting at Berklee can really change your writing for the better and get you used to delivering whenever you write a song—and not just delivering technique, but also delivering perspective.”

“We want to make successful songwriters and successful musicians, but the soul of it is in the connection to others and the good it does in the world. Music makes communities stronger and it makes people soulful, which is what we want.”

“I want to have an inclusive sensibility in the songwriting department. I don’t want to narrow it down to the forms that are currently making piles of money. I just think we should embrace all different kinds of music, because some of the best music intertwines styles.”

“I want to make the world’s foremost songwriting curriculum—one that changes and adapts to the market and what’s currently going on but also acknowledges timeless principles of songwriting and the uniqueness of songwriters as artists. With the help of the teachers and administration, I feel like we can rewrite that curriculum to be the foremost songwriting curriculum in the world. I think we can make an exportable curriculum that would be used in universities all over the place, because we’re already the farthest along and because we have the deepest bench in terms of who we draw on and their experience.”

Career Highlights

  • Wrote hit songs “Have a Heart” and “Love Letter” from the acclaimed Bonnie Raitt album Nick of Time.
  • Wrote songs for Cher, Bette Midler, David Crosby, Robert Cray, Adam Ant, Booker T. and the MG’s, and many more.
  • Produced the Gospel Hummingbirds’s Grammy-nominated 1992 album Steppin’ Out.
  • Toured with pop-punk icon Billy Idol.
  • Scored college radio hit with the 1980’s cult favorite “Shelley’s Boyfriend,” which also appeared, with another of Hayes’s songs, in the 1983 motion picture Valley Girl.