Institute for the Musical Arts

If the name June Millington isn’t familiar to you, then the American rock band Fanny just might be one you recalled from the early 1970s. They were one of the first all-female rock groups to achieve critical and commercial success yet managed to remain in a somewhat state of general obscurity.  There’s a theme building here. Founded by guitarist June Millington and her sister Jean on bass, they began playing music in their native Philippines before moving to California in 1961, while in their teens, and in 1965 formed an all-female band called The Svelts which later evolved in 1969 into Fanny. Fanny toured the world, performed alongside mega stars of the day, and recorded in Apple Studios.  Within their short six-year existence they recorded four albums before finally disbanding in 1975, but those four albums were a testament to the fact that girls could play rock and roll just as good, if not better, than men. The Bangles and The Runaways cited Fanny as a key influence. As David Bowie once said of Fanny, “They were extraordinary: they wrote everything, they played like motherfuckers, they were just colossal and wonderful, and nobody’s ever mentioned them.” That’s quite a statement.  So, if you’re wondering what the connection of all this is to the New England music scene, thanks for wondering since I’m about to tell you.

The Millington sisters never really stopped playing music. Fast forward to 1986 when June Millington and her partner Ann Hackler founded the Institute for Musical Arts (IMA) in Bodega, California.  The IMA is a non-profit organization that supports women and girls in music and music-related businesses. Fifteen years into it they relocated the IMA to Goshen, Massachusetts, a small town 15 miles Northwest of Northampton (a raucous music scene in and of itself and home to The Iron Horse Music Hall) where it sits on a 25 acre 200-year old farm.  The largest barn on the property was converted to a world-class recording studio and performance/teaching facility.  They could not have landed and settled in a more perfect location and the IMA has been here for the past 19 years with not so much as a whisper of its very existence—until now—where I’m letting this well-kept secret out, at least to all the MMONE visitors and readers.

The IMA is a place where girls can learn to–Play Like a Girl—not so surprisingly the title of a 2011 album by June and Jean Millington.  The music continues with June Millington and the IMA right here in Massachusetts.  What can students expect at the IMA? Programs include a Rock ‘n Roll Camp for Girls, workshops on vocal and instrumental instruction, album production, recording techniques, lyric and music composition, booking, promotion, and entertainment law. That’s comprehensive.  IMA’s development is guided by the visions, needs, and concerns of women from a diversity of backgrounds. The IMA’s Advisory Board includes musical artists Bonnie Raitt, Cris Williamson, Linda Tillery, Tret Fure, and recording engineer and music producer David Rubinson.

IMAs focus is to “nourish well-being in mind, body, spirit and music – fostering a greater sense of confidence and capability in girls and young women.” According to June, “We want to continue to mentor girls through showing them that women of all ages can go out there and rock.” Just so you don’t think this is an all-women’s venture, Jean Millington’s son Lee was involved in their 2011 recording both as a musician and an engineer.  They even use girls from the rock camps they run at the IMA as backup vocalists, offering them an opportunity to share and showcase their talents. As June says, “It feels as if we’ve come full circle and this thing is a big thank-you to the universe.”

(by Karl Sharicz)

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