Institute for the Musical Arts (IMA, Goshen, MA)

co-founders: Ann Hackler & June Millington

interviewed by Laila Salins and Sandra Zandberga; photos by Gigi Kaeser (unless otherwise marked)

detail from a quilt of female musicians at IMA

we were beckoned to this place…

June and Ann at IMA, summer of 2019

it felt pre-destined

Ann: The minute we saw each other: it felt pre-destined. I was young, I was exploring every kind of relationship – I believed in love, but I didn’t believe in monogamy. June came to the area in 1981, touring behind her Heartsong album. I can still see her on the steps: I’m walking – we look at each other – and that was that. We got together in 1984.

I had come to this area from Illinois in 1977 to attend Hampshire College. Upon graduation I was hired to be the coordinator of the Women’s Resource Center on campus. At the time there was a very full women’s music movement — all these collectives of women in USA and Canada who put on shows in church basements, coffeehouses, homes, record companies, but most of them are gone now. We left here for CA in 1986. I always wanted to start a school – and June always wanted to create something to support fellow female musicians.

June and Ann at IMA by the quilt of women musicians

Rehearsal space/studio at IMA


June: Once we decided to do that, I wrote 13 pages of why it would be a great idea. The people who read it said, if you get it together, call us! We were flabbergasted that if you lift up the rug in one little corner, there’s so much there. We did a bunch of benefit concerts for the place we wanted to create – boots on the ground, pass it on, plant a little seed, make sure the birds don’t eat it… This is what it took to build IMA – this is a big old YES – you have walked into the YES EDIFICE!

There is no substitute for YES – you submit, and if people say no, you say ok, maybe another time. The point is YES. I prayed for teachers and I got them: Muktananda, the Hindu thing, Buddhist practice, especially tantra, the vipassana, Ruth Denison, the noble truths. Ruth was very hard on me: June, stop flitting around in the desire realm – she’d say in the middle of meditation. Or, June, do you see that it’s a cloud, not your idea of a cloud? You have to understand: I was born in Manilla, the first girl born after the war. I was freaked out for so long – I didn’t feel safe, didn’t know who to believe. But now I understand the nature of reality – things as they are, not how you want them to be. Because that leads to the freedom of, fuck it, man, if you only have a minute to live, what are you going to do?

Ann and June at IMA, summer of 2019

a circle for gathering at IMA

the spirits of this place

Ann: We’d lost our space in CA when we came to an event at Hampshire College, and a friend, who is now on our board, asked us: why don’t you move here? I thought, that’s sweet, but no — we’ve built a business in California…. The next day she gave me a real estate magazine, with this place on the front page – a barn and 25 acres. We were beckoned here – the spirits of this place – the real caretakers of this place spoke to us: come here and we’ll open all the doors to you. It was meant to be. Some of our early students from the summer program are now teaching.

as for the future?

Ann: I’m thinking a lot about how we pass this on and about the land itself – it is magical. It’s a big part of why we call it the Magical Queendom.

June: I’d like to take the IMA show on the road: me and other women and girls from the music camps; create some audio-books and continue producing albums over the next 20 years – into my 90s!

June performing with some of her students (IMA archival photo)

Imagine a world in which the major decisions affecting the community are made in the kitchen, rather than in a boardroom; a world where what is central to the workplace is the coming together to break bread, rather than simply to make bread. Imagine this because it is happening here at IMA as we grow this place rooted in women’s relationships. Imagine this, because as we continue to work to bring equality, balance and harmony to the world, we are moving toward a place where everyone who comes to The Table is fed.

(Ann Hackler, IMA co-founder and Executive Director)

IMA is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to supporting women in music and music related business. As part of its non-profit mission it runs residential summer programs designed to give girls and young women an opportunity to express themselves through the vehicle of rock ‘n roll, to gain confidence in performance abilities, to improve musicianship, and to develop collaborative leadership skills. Students participate in writing, vocal, drum & percussion, chart writing & arranging classes and have access to a wide array of instruments. Advanced students are introduced to studio recording, engineering and producing in IMA’s state of the art recording studio. The 25-acre estate on which IMA is located features a house and several barns, all built in the early 1800’s – the largest has been converted into a recording, performance and teaching facility, with a seating capacity of 150.