Gayelynn McKinney

Gayelynn-McKinney_headshot Gayelynn-McKinney_project-imageABOUT THE ARTIST

Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Gayelynn’s father, the legendary Harold McKinney, was a formidable jazz pianist, composer and teacher who mentored manypeople and played with such greats as Billy Holiday, Gene Krupa and many others. Her mother Gwendolyn McKinney was a fashion model and renowned singer, singing in such productions as Carman and Porgy and Bess. She was also recorded on Harold McKinney’s “Voices and Rhythms of The Creative Profile.” As a vocal instructor she mentored many successful vocalists, including one of Ray Charles’s Raylets. Gayelynn began playing the drums at the age of two. She received much of her musical training in the Detroit Jazz scene, but she also obtained her Bachelor of Music degree from Oakland University.

Gayelynn McKinney’s many awards include 2014 Kresge Artist Fellows recipient, Grammy Nomination, Music Fest USA, and Motor City Music Award. Gayelynn McKinney’s diverse drumming style has given her the opportunity to travel extensively and play at many famous jazz festivals including Montreux-Switzerland, Lionel Hampton Jazz Fest, New Orleans Jazz Fest, 1996 Olympics, and the Kennedy Center.

Gayelynn recently recorded a solo project called “It’s About Time.” She has also performed as a side musician with such notables as, Aretha Franklin, Benny Golson, Freda Payne, Roy Ayers, Geri Allen, Marcus Belgrave, Chaka Khan, Roy Hargrove, Randy Brecker, Rick Margitza Larry Coryell, Steve Turre, Kevin Mahogany, James Carter, Regina Carter and “Speech” of Arrested Development, just to name a few.

Top Right Photo Credit: Dave Wilson Photography

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[Reservations required for students wishing to participate in music workshop. Click here to make a reservation.]

McKinFolk: The New Beginning is a labor of love featuring Harold McKinney’s music, who was Gayelynn’s father. Harold McKinney and his music are still loved by many. His mission during his life was to make jazz accessible to everyone as well as make sure the legacy of jazz was taught to younger generations.

Under the direction of his daughter, drummer Gayelynn McKinney, McKinFolk is the bringing together of the musical McKinney family and their extended family of Detroit musicians, to celebrate and perform the music of the late composer and pianist, Harold McKinney. This performance will feature vocalist and musicians that he has mentored or performed with during his life. Performers like Geri Allen, Eminent artist Marcus Belgrave and many others will gather on the stage to celebrate and perform his music. There will also be a glimpse of his philosophy and McKinney’s life with him, in the form of pictures and audio. This show will truly be a journey into the mind of a brilliant man who loved people, conversation, music and Detroit.

McKinney (drums) will also host a workshop for music students with Alina Moore (piano), Marion Hayden (bass), and Michelle McKinney (vocals).


McKinfolk, in the words of my father meant: “The blending of a musical performance with family and friends.” He also called the musical community his extended family. Dad was a philosopher, and a conversationalist. From the time I was nine years old until I was an adult, we had many philosophical discussions. For those of you who never met him, it is my hope that this show will give you a sense of who he was and the brilliance of his music. Putting together 19 performers (vocalist, percussionist, dancers, horns and rhythm section) is a huge undertaking, but it’s also a labor of love. I’m very excited to see it all come together.


Geri AllenProfessor Geri Allen is currently Director of the Jazz Studies Department at the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned a master’s degree in ethnomusicology. Geri Allen, pianist/composer, bandleader, educator and Guggenheim Fellow, is the first recipient of the Soul Train, Lady of Soul Award for Jazz. In 2011 Geri Allen, was nominated for an NAACP Award for her Timeline, Tap Quartet Project. Allen is the first woman and youngest person to receive the Danish Jazz Par Prize. She is a cutting-edge performing artist, and continues to concertize internationally.

She is a product of the Detroit Public School System, Howard University and the University of Pittsburgh. Allen moved to NYC in 1982 after she completed her advanced degree in ethnomusicology from the University of Pittsburgh, and for the past thirty years has recorded, performed and collaborated with some of the most important artists of our time including Ornette Coleman, Ravi Coltrane, George Shirley, Dewey Redman, Jimmy Cobb, Sandra Turner-Barnes, Charles Lloyd, Marcus Belgrave, Betty Carter, Jason Moran, Lizz Wright, Marian McPartland, Roy Brooks, Vijay Iyer, Charlie Haden and Paul Motion, Laurie Anderson, Terri Lynn Carrington and Esperanza Spalding, Hal
Wilner, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, Dianne Reeves, Joe Lovano, Dr. Billy Taylor, Carrie Mae Weems, Angelique Kidjo, Mary Wilson and the Supremes, S. Epatha Merkerson, Farah Jasmin Griffin, Howard University’s Afro-Blue and many others.

Marcus BelgraveMarcus Belgrave is Detroit’s internationally recognized jazz trumpet great. He came to prominence in the late 50’s, touring and recording with the late great Ray Charles’ Orchestra, at the height of Ray’s hitmaking era. Marcus is heard as a trumpet soloist on some of Ray’s most famous “hits”… both albums and singles. He always pays tribute to Ray, who mentored him from the young age of 19. He was also mentored by the Great Clifford Brown. Belgrave then spent the early 60’s spearheading the modern jazz movement in New York working and recording in the bands of such major innovators as Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Max Roach. Many of these classic recordings (on Atlantic, Columbia and other major labels) have now been re-issued on CD. Belgrave moved to Detroit in the early 1960’s to join Motown Records as staff trumpeter, playing on most of the Motown hits. Marcus was recently awarded the singular title of the official Jazz Master Laureate for the City of Detroit., as well as a fifty thousand dollar Kresge 2010 Eminent Artist award for his 46 years of service to the young musicians of Detroit. Always the teacher, Marcus continues to mentor the “next generation” of jazz musicians. His protégés include the who’s who of young jazz musicians: violinist, Regina Carter, bassist, Robert Hurst, saxophonist, Kenny Garrett, pianist Geri Allen, saxophonist James Carter, guitarist, Ray Parker Jr., drummer Ali Jackson, the list goes on and on.

Miche BradenMiche Braden is a product of the rich musical heritage of Detroit, where she was an artist-in-residence with the Detroit Council of the Arts; founder and former lead singer of Straight Ahead; lead in many Attic Theater productions; and protégé of musicians Earl Van Dyke, Thomas “Beans” Bowles, Harold McKinney, Marcus Belgrave and Dr. Mildred J. Dobey, her mother.

For 15 years, Miche has played Bessie Smith and serves as MD and Arranger for “The Devil’s Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith”. It has been performed Off-Broadway (Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel, Audelco, Off Broadway Alliance nominations), Regional (Florida’s Carbonell and Connecticut Critics Award nominations), Montreal Jazz festival, and the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise. Miche is featured on two James Carter releases “Gardenias For Lady Day” and “At The Crossroads.”

Recent credits include: Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus Vocal music arranger/choral director (Spike Lee Joint), Queen Latifah’s HBO film “Bessie” (Voiceover for Ma Rainey/Mo’Nique), The Tempest original cast World Premiere in Las Vegas, A.R.T. in Cambridge, MA and MD for their South Coast Repertory production (L.A. Drama Critic nomination – Music Direction). She’s featured on 4 Postmodern Jukebox YouTube videos including Sweet Child of Mine (4 million hits).

Omelika KuumbaOmelika Kuumba was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. She is an alumna of Spelman College. After graduating from Spelman, she became the cultural arts educator and instructor of African Dance Forms in the Department of Drama and Dance at Spelman. She is also an instructor of African Dance Forms in the Department of Dance at Emory University. Omelika is one of the founding members and artistic director of the award winning dance and vocal troop, GIWAYEN MATA. Omelika was a first round winner with GIWAYEN MATA in the third season of NBC Television’s America’s Got Talent. She also performed as the percussionist in the play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf under the direction of Ms. Jasmine Guy. In addition to other awards that she has received with GIWAYEN MATA , Omelika is the recipient of awards from USA Magazine as well as the Ruby Gem Drama and Dance student departmental award at Spelman College. She is also listed in Who’s Who in Black Atlanta.

Omelika is an instructor and workshop leader and lecturer of music and dance at various schools and programs to expand awareness and appreciation of African dance and music. She has been a consultant for the Atlanta Public Schools Gifted and Talented Program and the National Black Arts Festival. Omelika has played with vocalists including Dionne Farris and Goapele. Her commercial and television credits include being a featured guest on several cable television programs and being a percussionist for an American Cancer Society anti-smoking campaign with Mike E.

Carlos McKinneyCarlos McKinney was born into an eminent Detroit jazz family; he is a nephew to pianist Harold McKinney, bassist Ray McKinney and trombonist Bernard McKinney (Kiane Zawadi). Carlos began studying piano at age four with uncle Harold; his first professional appearances were with the RandB group Identity Band when he was 12. He studied classical music at the Center for Creative Studies from 1983 to 1991. He also studied harp under Patricia Terry-Ross, of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. After studying with Harold, Ray McKinney and Marcus Belgrave, he played with the Legacy Quintet and then attended The New School in New York City. He played with Winard Harper, Antonio Hart, Buster Williams, Wallace Roney, Sonny Rollins, Elvin Jones, Steve Turre, Branford Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, Kenny Garrett and Charnett Moffett. He has played jazz festivals in Europe, Senegal, Iceland, and Turkey. His first disc as a bandleader was 2000’s Up-Front =, on Sirocco Jazz.

Carlos McKinney has also worked as an arranger and producer. He was assistant composer to James Mtume for the TV show New York Undercover from 1995. He then received a contract from Def Jam, where he worked with musicians such as NIKKO, Case, Keithian, Ciara, Rihanna, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Montell Jordan, Kandace Love, Babyface, and Redman. He has also produced for artists such as The-Dream, J. Holiday, Bobby Valentino, and Jamie Foxx, among others. He produced hits like Bed by J. Holiday in 2007 and he won a Grammy Award for his credits and production on the Rihanna Unapologetic album in 2013.


WDETWDET’s growing audience reaches more than 150,000 listeners every week in southeast Michigan, northwest Ohio and southwest Ontario. From its on-campus location in Midtown Detroit, WDET creates a mix of news and music programming that is unique as the city and region it serves.

WDET is licensed by the Federal Communications Commission to Wayne State University, and has been owned and operated since 1952 to serve in the public interest. The station is also a member of the National Public Radio (NPR) network and broadcasts content from other outlets including American Public Media, Public Radio Exchange, and New York’s WNYC.