Gayelynn McKinney began playing the drums at the age of two. She received much of her musical training in Detroit’s jazz scene, and she received a Bachelor of Music degree from Oakland University. McKinney’s eclectic style garnered her recognition, including her Grammy-nominated work with the all-female jazz band Straight Ahead, which also received a 2004 Motor City Music Award. Her diverse musical range has given her the opportunity to travel extensively and perform at many renowned jazz festivals and venues including Montreux Jazz Festival, Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. In addition to her prolific solo career, she has accompanied notable musicians such as, Aretha Franklin, Benny Golson, Freda Payne, Geri Allen, Marcus Belgrave, Chaka Khan, Roy Hargrove, Randy Brecker, Rick Margitza, Larry Coryell, Steve Turre, Kevin Mahogany, James Carter, Regina Carter and the rapper Speech of Arrested Development, among others.
McKinney served as a 2016-2017 Kresge Arts in Detroit Advisory Council member.