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"Stronger Together With..." JUNO

Through the lenses of five talented local photographers, United Way's Stronger Together project documents Quad Citizens coming together to celebrate each other — and the simple acts of kindness — that inspire us during these unpredictable times.

This installment of "Stronger Together With..." tells the story behind a photo — how one Quad Citizen is helping others live their best life. Meet the artist named JUNO, pictured in this photo by Josh Graves.

It’s been said, life takes you to unexpected places but love brings you home. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, JUNO, raised by a hardworking, single mother, learned very early on the day to day struggles of survival.
 
Looking for more stability, JUNO’s family moved to the Quad Cities where she lived with her aunt and uncle and attended Rock Island High School. Her aunt was a principal in the Quad Cities and inspired her to value education and to become the first in her family to graduate college. After college, she started her first career as a social worker at a drug rehab facility for teenagers.
 
One particular young man made quite the impression on JUNO and changed the course of her life. With the threat of him being kicked out of the facility, JUNO attempted to reach him by engaging him through his passion; the guitar. His eyes lit up the first time she showed interest in his music, and they immediately formed a bond through the guitar. She too, experienced a sense of magic for the first time, as she strummed the strings playing the chords that he taught her.
 
From that point forward, JUNO realized there was a healing power in music that she had never tapped into.  Determined to master the guitar, she practiced up to 16 hours a day and continued bonding with her students through this newfound hobby. She learned she could express herself through the guitar and discovered it set her free. She began studying all the greats of the instrument such as B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix, Wes Montgomery, John Mayer, Keith Urban and Jairus Mozee.
 
JUNO recognized a gap in R&B and soul guitar representation — specifically with Black women. Determined to change this, she began creating instructional YouTube videos teaching R&B/soul music on the guitar. Around that time, and inspired by John Mayer and Quincy Jones, she decided to audition for the best music school in the world, Berklee College of Music.  After four semesters and hundreds of YouTube videos later, JUNO got the call to go on the road with a new girl group named Fifth Harmony. Days later, she found herself on stage for the first time ever, in New York City in front of thousands of screaming fans.
 
Since then, JUNO has gone on to work with many well-known artists including Camila Cabello, Bruno Mars, Erykah Badu, Machine Gun Kelly, India Arie and Lizzo, to name a few. Her talents took her across the country and around the world, where she shared her love for guitar with thousands of fans. When COVID-19 struck, JUNO realized her heart was at home.
 
In 2020, she returned to the Quad Cities where she finished writing and producing her first album, “Help is Not on the Way” out of her aunt and uncle’s house where she lived during high school. The album is a message of hope, allowing listeners to experience her journey of struggle and determination, a full circle moment bringing her back to where she began.
 
With a passion for music education and a desire to give back, JUNO founded JUNO’s Guitar Bootcamp, where she has taught 350 students over Zoom from more than 12 countries during the last 2 years. Now, JUNO’s Guitar Bootcamp is coming to the Quad Cities, as JUNO hopes to provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and experience for local artists/musicians in the area who want to take their careers to the next level.
 
For more information about JUNO’s Guitar Bootcamp, please email guitarbootcamp@junotheartist.org.
 
When asked about what makes us stronger together JUNO said, “None of us have to be alone. For so long, I thought I had to do it alone. I had big dreams, but I just couldn’t see them happening. I had to open myself up, be receptive, and learn to give in order to get. My heart brought me back to this community — it’s where I started — and it’s where I want to share my love of music with others.”

Learn more about the Stronger Together project.