An active music educator, Russ has performed drum set clinics and workshops, and appeared at international drum events all across Europe, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.
His playing and interviews have been transcribed and featured in many international drum publications. Russ has also acted as a contributing writer to Modern Drummer and Rhythm U.K. drum magazines.
From 1984-2012 he was the head marching percussion instructor and arranger for the Kamehameha Schools “Warrior” Band and Color Guard from Honolulu, Hawaii. The Kamehameha high school drum line quickly became and remained the top drum line in the Hawaiian islands during his tenure, consistently winning top percussion awards and attracting both national and international attention through their many trips abroad.
Previously, he was the percussion instructor and arranger at Union High School in Tulsa, OK.
More about Russ...
Russ graduated from The University of Tulsa where he studied both music and business. He then attended graduate school at the University of North Texas, in Denton, where he played in the highly regarded UNT Lab Band program.
The Early Years: Livin’ on Tulsa Time
Growing up near Tulsa, Oklahoma, Russ couldn’t help but be inspired and influenced by local music greats Leon Russell and The Gap Band (with whom he would later record). In the 1970s, many big names in rock music such as Eric Clapton and Bob Seger came to Oklahoma seeking out musicians who had that special “Tulsa Sound”. In addition to these local icons, the young McKinnon was greatly influenced by the music of the Beatles, Elton John, Led Zeppelin and the amazing recordings coming out of Motown. He also developed an early love for the horn driven rock bands of the day such as Chicago, Earth Wind and Fire, the Average White Band and, of course, Tower of Power.
His earliest musical influence, however, was from his mother, Frankie, herself a truly gifted musician and teacher. She had her son reading music and playing piano by age 7, and even tried (quite unsuccessfully) to get Russ to study the violin. She eventually conceded to let him transfer his musical interest to snare drum when he was 12.
Russ received his first drum set at 14. He remembers it well, "It was a used Ludwig 1968 'Ringo Star era' 4 piece, silver sparkle kit with a supersensitive snare drum. I still have the snare!” says Russ. His father, Dan, bought the kit (including cymbals, hardware and cases) for $275! To this day, Dan jokes that the purchase of that first drum set was the best investment he ever made!
Immediately out of high school Russ moved to the Boston area to join up and tour with the 27th Lancers Drum and Bugle Corps. He credits his participation in the drum corps activity as an important motivational and “chops building” experience that would help drive his future professional music career.