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Play Like a Girl: A new sisterhood forms at June Millington and Ann Hackler’s rock camp

  • When they aren’t writing songs or jamming on their instruments, the girls, left to right, Gabriela Rincón, Lane Moore, Sophie Waters and Lauren Froeberg, play outside. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • Ruth Brown and Dance Floor Divas: The ’70s CDs rest on a professional sound recorder in the largest studio barn on campus. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • June Millington, far right, top row, teaches the teen campers music theory and how to use proper chords in every song they sing or write. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • June Millington, right, teaches a chords class to the girls while singing songs by The Beatles. Inside the main barn is a poster showing a loose schedule for the girls to follow while at the camp. Also featured is June’s band pass from the 2014 summer sessions; it reads “Chicks Kick Ass.” GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O'CONNOR

  • June Millington, center, teaches the girls music theory in the main barn. Most of the girls were returning campers, though there were a couple of new faces, too. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • At left, Lilah Asbornsen has an individual lesson with one of the camp’s two summer interns, Anjali Kumar, inside the main house. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • After dinner and one-on-one lessons, the girls, left to right, Lauren Froeberg, Luna Puchalsky, Amelie Fisher and Lily Kulp, play their own tunes and instruments in the main barn-turned-recording studio. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • After dinner and one-on-one lessons, the girls play their own tunes and instruments in the barn-turned-recording studio. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • Lane Moore and Kim Chin-Gibbons, who are in the band Parlicium, hug each other. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • Luna Puchalsky, center, sings a song all the girls created together. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • Luna Puchalsky singing. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • During a break, the girls, left to right, Lane Moore, Lauren Froeberg, Gabriela Rincón and Sophie Waters, work on their songwriting. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • During a break, the girls, left to right, Sophie Waters and Lauren Froeberg, escape to the outdoor yurts, where they sleep. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • Lane Moore, 15, walks toward the outdoor yurts where the girls sleep. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • Dena Tauriello, percussion instructor, teaches the girls the proper hand technique for bongo drums. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • Inside the largest barn is a poster depicting a loose schedule for the girls to follow while at the camp. Also featured is June’s band pass from the 2014 summer camps; it reads “Chicks Kick Ass.” GAZETTE STAFF/ CAROLINE O’CONNOR



Friday, July 14, 2017

The first day of camp. For the 13 teen girls attending a July summer session at the Institute for the Musical Arts (IMA) in Goshen, it started with orientation in the main barn. Among the subjects covered: Bathroom cleanup duty, safety precautions for dealing with ticks and bears on the property, and how to properly dispose of a popsicle from the stash in the freezer.

Oh, and then there was the drum curfew. “No drums or really loud electrified music after 11 o’clock,” said Ann Hackler, cofounder of the camp with June Millington (also her partner of 32 years), who sat nearby on a folding chair and nodded. “Otherwise,” June chimed in, “it’s cool!”

For most of these girls, June needed no introduction as she greeted arriving campers wearing a Hawaiian floral shirt, pink pants and flip flops, her long white hair flowing behind her. She has been called one of the godmothers of chick rock, a fitting nickname for a woman who, along with her sister Jean Millington, formed the band Fanny in the late ’60s (it morphed out of their high-school band, The Svelts), one of the first all-female rock groups to sign with a major record label, in 1969.

In their heyday, Fanny played with Barbra Streisand and recorded at the Beatles’ Apple Studio and made fans out of muscians like David Bowie, who once told Rolling Stone that “They were one of the finest f---ing rock bands of their time… They are as important as anyone else who’s ever been, ever.” June, who is Filipino-American and grew up in Manila and Sacramento, chronicled her life story in an epic autobiography, “Land of a Thousand Bridges: Island Girl in a Rock & Roll World,” published in 2015. Now 69, she’s thinking a lot about her legacy, and how to pass down all that she has learned. But her camper-students also have to be ready to receive what she has to offer them: “During my class, I do not want to see phones out,” she told the group as a black dog wandered around the barn. “I’m passing so much onto you guys, and it’s my lifetime accumulation of information and experience. While you’re here, you should take it in.”

At least for the length of orientation, not a single cell phone was in sight. Instead of screens, the girls looked at each other — they wore dark eyeliner and chipped nail polish, ripped jeans and gypsy pants, nose rings and hair dyed pollen yellow and soft lilac. One of the younger girls in the group had a string friendship bracelet on her wrist. 

As Ann spoke, they listened intently to the rundown of rules and schedules for the next 10 days. There are three main classes a day: vocals (taught by singer Evelyn Harris), drums/percussion (led by drummer Dena Tauriello), and Music as a Second Language, June’s turf, which includes music theory as well as a primer on foremothers of rock, from Big Mama Thornton to Celia Cruz. At night, the camper-students can take private music lessons in the barn, which doubles as a 3,000-square-foot recording complex, with instruments of all kinds: electric and acoustic guitars, mandolins, banjos, a grand piano and even an electric sitar. “The only thing we don’t have is a stand-up bass, if anyone wants to donate one,” Ann says.  

It’s not your ordinary band camp. Founded in 2001, under the umbrella of IMA — a nonprofit that also serves as a women’s retreat, school and studio — the girls’ rock ’n’ roll camp (there’s also a session for preteens) celebrates its 15th anniversary this year and has been fertile ground for female rockers since its inception. Camp alumnae include members of local bands And the Kids and Kalliope Jones; the latter will perform on The Next Wave Stage at The Green River Festival tonight. They’ll share the bill with four other youth bands, including Parlicium, an indie-rock trio that features two current IMA campers, bassist/keyboardist Lane Moore, 15, and guitarist/drummer Kim Chin-Gibbons, 16, as well as their friend guitarist/drummer/singer Tobias LaMontagne (son of Grammy-winning singer Ray LaMontagne). “Three of the five acts on The Next Wave Stage are students or alumnae of IMA, and they’ll all be performing at our Lady and the Amp Festival on August 19th on the lawn,” Ann says.

“It’s incredible that there’s a place like this in the world, where extremely talented people have taken the time to educate the next generation,” says Lane, who lives in Sunderland. “That Ann and June have taken the time to create this environment where women can feel accepted and create music… I have no words.”

“This place makes us feel like we can do anything in music without being held back,” adds Kim, who has been coming to camp for five years.

Lane and Kim have been in a band together for about a year and a half. And in case you’re wondering what Parlicium means: “It’s a constellation that died millions of years ago,” Lane says. Kim nodds, fingering the chain of colorful guitar picks she wears as a necklace. “It’s a ghost word that we found in a dictionary,” she says, “and we can’t seem to find any other definition online.” “It was a dictionary from, like, the ’20s,” Lane adds.

The name is unusual enough that Kim had to think for a minute when asked how to spell it. But with a little luck, Parlicium will re-enter the lexicon after tonight’s performance. The band members are still wrapping their heads around playing at Green River — they won the spot after recording a video of themselves playing and submitting it to a contest hosted by the festival organizers. “We’re all big fans of Lake Street Dive, and we know they’ve played there, so when we heard there was an opportunity to play there, it was incredible,” says Lane, who earlier that day ran into Lake Street Dive’s manager, Emily Lichter, in the kitchen. (Emily is on IMA’s board of directors, and Ann calls her their CEV, “Chief Executive Volunteer.”) “We’re working on a cover of ‘Feelin’ Alright,’ the Joe Cocker version of the Traffic song,” says Kim. “It just had really good vibes and was fitting for how we felt about playing at the festival: feelin’ alright!”

It also seems fitting that Parlicium takes both its name and inspiration from the past. The IMA camp experience is a throwback to a simpler time. The majority of the girls sleep in a yurt near the barn, surrounded by 25 acres of land. They spent part of the afternoon unzippering the windows, claiming the bunk beds inside, plucking spiders off the walls and greeting old friends with hugs and secret handshakes. Most of the girls were returnees. They came from the Pioneer Valley and from as far away as California. Guitarist Gabriela Rincón traveled all the way from Oakland with her mother, whom June invited to spend the night if she needed to later that week.

Along with the familiar faces, there were also a couple of new ones, like Jana Abromowitz, a 16-year-old who was recently adopted from her native Bulgaria. “I like to sing pop music, like Justin Bieber,” she said, as her mother, Jennifer Abromowitz, beamed by her side. Other girls bonded over the English rock band Yes. “That’s the kind of musical DNA that happens here,” June says. “I think they turn each other on to new and old music, and I learn about what the kids are listening to.”

Later in the barn, all of the girls introduced themselves, giving their names and answers to June’s prompt about what they hoped to get out of camp. Kim jumped right in, followed by Gabriela and Lane.

“Hi, I’m Kim, and I really want to collaborate the heck out of everything.”

“Hi, I’m Gabriela, and I really wanna write a rock song that makes you wanna headbang.”

“Like get down on it?” asked Lane, getting laughs.

“Yeah, like, ‘She rocks.’ ”

A few of the other girls nodded. They knew exactly what she meant. They ended with a “musical handshake,” a get-to-know-you activity in which each camper plays a song, either live or recorded, for the others. Sophie Waters started, strumming an acoustic guitar and singing a spare but soulful rendition of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black.” Cameil Nelson, the youngest girl in the group, went next. Instead of performing herself, she used the sound system to play “Video Games” by Lana Del Rey, whose voice swelled to the high ceilings of the barn.

“What is it you love about this?” June asked gently. The 13-year-old thought for a second. “I love the lyrics,” she said, seeming a bit unsure of herself. “Swinging in the backyard/ Pull up in your fast car...” She stopped and looked to the white-haired teacher as if searching for her approval.

“Keep going,” June said. “It’s a great exercise to say the words, out loud, of any song that you love — and your own.”