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Hollywood Musician to Lead Berklee Songwriting

Singer/songwriter Bonnie Hayes, famous for her work with Bonnie Raitt, Cher and others, will take the songwriting helm at Berklee College of Music this fall.

By Sara Jacobi

Singer/songwriter Bonnie Hayes, a 35-year veteran of the music industry most famous for writing songs for Bonnie Raitt, Cher and Bette Midler and producing more than 40 records, will add a new line to her resume in Boston this year. 

Hayes has been hired by Berklee College of Music as the chair of the college's songwriting department. She takes over this fall from Jack Perricone, who held the position for 26 years. 

 "I am very pleased to have Bonnie Hayes take over as Chair of the Songwriting Department," said Perricone. "Before meeting her, I had admired her work as a songwriter, especially 'Love Letter' and 'Have a Heart' from Bonnie Raitt's Nick of Time. She brings to Berklee a lifetime of experience as a songwriter, performer, and teacher." 

Hayes has worked as a songwriter, producer, performer, and recording artist in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City.  She boasts five record deals and five writing deals, and toured as a side musician with Billy Idol and Cris Williamson. 

Hayes says she hopes to "streamline, modernize, and energize the curriculum with the goal of giving students the tools and support for viable careers in the current and future music industry, as well as activating the great teachers at Berklee by helping them create engaging and innovative programs." 

"I haven’t been an academic my whole life, I've been a working professional songwriter and professional for 35 years so I know what the industry is like," she said.  "I come from California and I have a very open collaborative approach and community oriented approach to working together."

Berklee already boasts some big shot alumni, including including Gillian Welch, John Mayer, Tom Hambridge, Greg Becker, Eve Nelson, Makeba Riddick, and Bleu. 

Hayes said her advice for aspiring singer/songwriters in Boston isn't to up and move to Hollywood or New York right away. 

" I think some should be encouraged  to work in a smaller market and build originality and uniqueness - the things that keep them apart, instead of focusing on the things that make them alike," she said. "After working on your skills, learning how to perform, how to write a song that isn't 7 minutes long and puts someone to sleep, how to build a social network, and then move to Hollywood and New York and work it."

Hayes said that looking forward, she's excited to be a part of the Berklee and Boston communities. 

"My experience with Berklee is the people there are rad," she said. "I love Boston and I'm stoked to be here and looking forward to bringing my A-game to Berklee."

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