Institute for the Musical Arts

The name June Millington may not be familiar to you, but the American rock band Fanny might be one you recall from the early 1970s. After all, they were one of the first all-female rock groups to achieve some degree of critical and commercial success yet still remain in a state of general obscurity. There’s a theme building here.

Founded by guitarist 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. In 1965,, they formed an all-female band called The Svelts which evolved into Fanny in 1969. During their six-year existence, they recorded four albums, toured all over the world, performed alongside megastars of the day and recorded at Apple Studios. They disbanded in 1975, but their albums were (and remain) a testament that girls could play rock ‘n’ roll just as well (if not better) than boys. Both The Bangles and The Runaways cited Fanny as a key influence and David Bowie called the group “extraordinary,” noting that “they wrote everything, they played like motherfuckers, they were just colossal and wonderful, and nobody’s ever mentioned them.”

So, you’re probably wondering by now what on Earth any of this has to do with the New England music scene. Okay, please allow me to explain.


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 there for the past 19 years with not so much as a whisper of its very existence – until now, when I’m letting this well-kept secret out (at least to MMONE visitors and regulars).


The IMA is a place where girls can learn to “play like a girl” – not 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 the Rock ‘n Roll Camp for Girls, various workshops on vocal and instrumental instruction, album production, recording techniques, lyric and music composition, booking, promotion, and classes in entertainment law. That’s what I call comprehensive.

The IMA’s development is guided by the visions, needs and concerns of women from a diversity of backgrounds and its Advisory Board includes musicians Bonnie Raitt, Cris Williamson, Linda Tillery and Tret Fure, and audio engineer and producer David Rubinson. The IMA’s stated 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. “It feels as if we’ve come full circle,” June says, “and this thing is a big ‘thank you’ from us to the universe.”

(by Karl Sharicz)

Published On: December 11, 2019