JUNO grew up on the South Side of Chicago. Ask about her childhood, and she’ll tell you that she was just a regular kid who loved playing outside with friends. Her family lived on a modest income, and overcame many obstacles. These humble beginnings and life that followed created a uniquely human experience that is reflected in her work as a music artist, educator and activist. JUNO would move from her South Side home to live with an uncle in the Quad Cities during high school. JUNO’s world would begin to expand. She was encouraged to attend college, graduating from Illinois State University.
A life changing moment was about to happen.
During her first job as a drug rehab counselor, JUNO met her first client, a 15-year-old heroin addict named Jake. This young man had proven a difficult resident of the rehab center, uninterested in treatment or recovery. JUNO took notice of his obsession with guitar. Jake had lost his guitar privileges at the rehab center for not following program rules. JUNO saw this as an opportunity to try a new approach. She convinced the center to give Jake his guitar, and convinced Jake to teach her to play, under the condition that they wouldn’t discuss drugs or rehab. JUNO had no real interest in learning to play guitar; she was focused on helping her client.
Jake showed her a couple of chords, and everything changed. At this moment, JUNO experienced passion for the first time. “It’s as though electricity was flowing through my body,” she recalls.
Prior to this moment, JUNO’s life had been about day-to-day survival and her family’s well-being. In the short time she spent with Jake, her life’s course was altered. She became obsessed, borrowing a friend’s guitar and eventually convincing family members to help her buy her own.
Her new guitar was always with her at work, so she could play it at every possible spare moment. Although her employer wasn’t thrilled about this new obsession, they did allow JUNO to play during her lunch break. JUNO had noticed that her office was racially segregated, except when co-workers gathered to hear her play. This new-found ability to bring people together with a guitar was exciting.
In her quest to learn more, JUNO discovered that two of her idols, John Mayer and Quincy Jones attended the Berklee College of Music. In JUNO’s mind, this meant she needed to attend Berklee. She researched admittance requirements, set out to meet those requirements, applied and gained admittance. She paid her own way to attend Berklee, but within two years she felt she’d lost a sense of freedom. She was no longer bringing people together with her playing.
JUNO left Berklee to see if she could get gigs by posting YouTube videos, much to the chagrin of friends and family. She didn’t know anything about the music business, but hoped her appearance and playing would help her stand out. The gigs didn’t come right away, but JUNO gained recognition as a guitar teacher on YouTube. She quickly noticed a gap. There were plenty of white guys teaching guitar on YouTube, but few people of color, few women, and even less who looked like her. She became known as the R&B Guitar Guru, and would soon after create JUNO’s Guitar Bootcamp.
JUNO had all but given up on her quest to find work as a touring musician when she got the call to tour with Fifth Harmony on the 7/27 Tour. She would accept the invitation, leaving Berklee with her guitar and a single bag. The Fifth Harmony tour took her all over the world, including Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Paris, Mexico and more! The 24K Magic Tour with Bruno Mars and Camila Cabello followed.
Experience on the road gave JUNO a culture shock that broadened her perspective. During this time of world travel, she started jamming on the streets and in public parks, gathering crowds of people who began to follow her. She was bringing people together again. Aware of her talent as a great guitarist, she wanted more. JUNO wanted to inspire people and bring people together with her guitar.
After coming off the road, JUNO continued to play guitar “on the side” for some of the top artists in the world including Lizzo, Machine Gun Kelly, Zedd, AJ Mitchelle, Estelle, Sevyn Streeter & more!
Getting Lost In L.A.
JUNO had always felt the need to evolve. A break from touring would allow her to rethink her mission, and to find a home. At the advice of friends, she moved to Los Angeles, where she talked herself into taking up residence in an abandoned garage. She felt genuine excitement, viewing this as an adventure. To her surprise, this adventure soon became dark as she realized it was not an efficient space to make a home. In addition to the large bugs and mold, JUNO felt unsafe, as if she couldn’t even call for help if she needed it. No one knew where she was, as the building had no address.
Help Is Not On The Way!
Weeks of waiting became months. JUNO stopped doing many of the things she loved. She was now waiting to be rescued. As she stood alone one night, in her kitchen, hungry, but too proud and guilt ridden to call home, she literally screamed for help. Her voice echoed back at her, and it was the first time she realized that no one else could answer that call but her. She immediately whispered to herself “Help is not on the way!” This moment was the inspiration for the title track of her debut solo album, Help Is Not on The Way.
She began writing more songs, driven by the desire to share her story. It was a way to reach others who felt left out, disregarded, or in need of help, as she had. JUNO was inspired to seek out and help others see themselves in her, not as a hero, but as someone who can rise above. Rising above meant much more to JUNO than achieving celebrity. It meant admitting that no matter your outer success, we’re all the same inside.
In 2016 while working on her album Help Is Not on The Way, JUNO decided to come out a queer person. She was kicked out of her church and completely cut off by some family members. Everyone loved her before this moment she recalls. After this moment, it was as though only half of those same people still loved her. This was a life moment that ignited the activist in JUNO.
She decided to self-produce her debut album after experiencing quid pro quo offers from producers, including sexual advances and requests for introductions to her celebrity friends. She also knew that too few women had yet dared to self-produce an album. She also knew that being a black, queer woman would make a statement. Moving to Nashville TN, she successfully produced her debut album, releasing Help is On the Way on April 24, 2020 (her birthday).
JUNO's Guitar Bootcamp
JUNO’s Guitar Bootcamp started as one-on-one Skype lessons, whereby JUNO personally served over 250 students in twelve countries. These boot camp lessons have allowed her to build relationships by speaking directly to her audience. It was created entirely around JUNO’s desire to help others feel the joys she felt learning to play, obtaining endorsements, and touring. It’s all part of JUNO’s interest in giving away secrets and tricks she learned throughout her career.
The boot camp curriculum is based on JUNO’s professional and personal experience, customized for individual student needs. Through sponsorships with her friends and colleagues, JUNO has created a scholarship program called the “Black Lives Matter Scholarship.” In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, she is putting 20 students through her boot camp program for free. Her vision for the school is to go beyond technique and theory, teaching students how to be instinctive, and find value and meaning in guitar and life. The school will also provide mentorship, industry connections and personal development. JUNO now sees herself as an artist, producer, writer and founder of a groundbreaking music school that will develop independent, well-rounded, business savvy, guitar professionals. It is in JUNO’s eyes a safe space to learn, thrive and get jobs.
JUNO is all about shifting the perspective of life to healing, and loves nothing more than bringing people together through music. She continues her activist work, speaking publicly about the Black Lives Matter movement, LGBTQ+ issues, & encouraging women to break beyond the glass ceiling society places on us. Her life has been filled with opportunities to study children and adults, across many cultures. She feels blessed having experienced so much, from growing up without material things to being a rock star. Life has taught her compassion, kindness, and tolerance.
views her professional career in social work and with children as valuable preparation for creating her guitar boot camp. She still feels like a social worker, only now it’s through her music.