Hayley Thompson-King

Associate Professor
Affiliated Departments
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Hayley Thompson-King is a mezzo-soprano, songwriter, and performing artist, with "a voice that can do anything," according to Americana UK . Her work explores a broad range of sounds and vocalities drawing from Americana, psych, garage-rock, and art music. A classically trained vocalist, she has a Master of Music in opera performance from New England Conservatory of Music and a Bachelor’s of Music in opera performance from New York University. She has had the privilege to study voice with Carolann Page, Jane Bunnell, and Patricia Craig, as well as acting with Jack Allison and at Atlantic Theater Company in New York.

Hayley's 2017 debut solo album, Psychotic Melancholia, received international attention as “a poetic and measured critique of life as a woman in the 21st Century” (Noisey), “an explosive display of vocal prowess” (PopMatters), and “a positively jaw-dropping exposition that celebrates the entire canon of rock 'n' roll’s energy, and should be considered an upping of the ante on the gritty sonic real estate of garage, punk, country, and Americana…" (Paste Magazine). Coproduced by Thompson-King and Pete Weiss, the album has received regular airplay on Sirius XM’s Outlaw Country Station and reached no. 55 on the Americana Radio Albums chart.

For her sophomore release, Sororicide (2020), she worked with producer (and Berklee faculty member) Sean Slade. American Standard Time describes the album as "fuzzy as Memphis rock, and scuzzy as L.A. punk. It’s a dark ride that feels dangerous at times." The concept album draws from a wide range of styles to bring to life to a power struggle between an artist and her inner voice, which she believes to be her parasitic twin. Inspired by Die sieben Todsünden ("The Seven Deadly Sins") by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, this album considers the existence of an "essential self." Newsweek summarizes the album by saying, “In the vein of alt-classical song cycles and rock concept albums, her new work layers wide-reaching sonics with palpable psychodrama. At its core is the battle between an artist and the voice inside her head.”

Career Highlights
  • Solo Albums: Save The Rats (Hard To Kill Records, 2012), Psychotic Melancholia (produced by Pete Weiss, Hard To Kill Records, 2017) Sororicide (produced by Sean Slade, Hard To Kill Records, 2020)
  • Albums with Major Stars: Decibels of Gratitude (Important Records, 2012), Motion Set (Drag City, 2016)
  • Part of a multimedia collaboration with visual artist Ann Kraus. Their current work in progress, Deerheads, is a series of performance-based installation pieces. The first of the series, titled "She Contains Multitudes," debuted July, 2021 at Galleries at Lynn Arts in Lynn, Massachusetts, followed by an installation at Nuveen Center in Whitehall, MI.
  • Toured throughout North American and Europe and made festival appearances including SXSW (Austin), AmericanaFest (Nashville), STHLM Americana Festival (Stockholm, Sweden), and Lost Evenings Festival (Boston).
  • Featured musical artist for a sold-out live performance of the New York Times/WBUR production Modern Love Live at the Huntington Theater in 2019.
  • Original music featured in Marielle Heller’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl, which NME called "The most important feminist film of 2015."
  • Albums have received national radio play, including spins on Sirius XM’s Underground Garage and Outlaw Country stations.
  • Concert appearances with Jason Isbell, Andrew WK, Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Frank Turner, Brothers Osborn, Hurray for the Riff Raff, and others.
  • Recipient of the Iguana Fund Music Grant (2015); Somerville Arts Council Fellowship in Music (2017); and a semifinalist for the 2021 Creative Capital Award.
  • M.M., New England Conservatory of Music, opera performance 
  • B.M., New York University, opera performance 
In Their Own Words

"My technique and teaching philosophy are very much shaped by feminist principles including nonviolence and anti-oppression. Students in my studio cultivate awareness of their bodies, practice thoughtful training of their instrument, and explore emotional expression through musical analysis and particularization text."

"The philosopher John Stuart Mill suggested '...eloquence is heard; poetry is overheard. Eloquence supposes an audience. The peculiarity of poetry appears to us to lie in the poet's utter unconsciousness of a listener. Poetry is feeling confessing itself to itself in moments of solitude and embodying itself in symbols, which are the nearest possible representations of the feeling in the exact shape in which it exists in the poet's mind. Eloquence is feeling pouring itself out to other minds, courting their sympathy, or endeavoring to influence their belief, or move them to passion or to action.'"

"In my own artistic work, I practice the dangerous act of allowing others to bear witness to my humanity. I think this is the most important value I can imbue in my students to support a joyful and successful artistic career."

I am a deeply curious musician. When I moved to New York City at age 18, I was seriously ensconced in classical music studies and at the same time drawn to Twilo, the Mercury Lounge, SOB's, and loft parties across the bridge where I could dance and see bands. I've always had a hard time staying in one musical lane, which I now know is what makes my artistic work and teaching practices successful. As I branched out from opera and art songs to sing rock, Americana, psych, and experimental music, I've utilized the gifts of my classical voice training, and have also come to recognize the historically flawed notion that this training is inherently supreme. This journey has been essential to my teaching methodologies, which support a functional voice and individual artistry, and promote anti-racism.

"I've had great opportunities to perform throughout North America and in Europe, in concert halls and theaters; and also in countless clubs, bars, squats, barns, fields, galleries, basements, and record stores. I have had the experience of losing my voice...and getting it back. I have learned to effectively lead a band, make a record, change guitar strings mid-song, work a P.A., build a website, organize tours, and a myriad of other skills that all contribute to my teaching."