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Originally posted June 11, 2012
Broken Arrow native Russ McKinnon tour drummer for Barry Manilow
BY MOLLY BULLOCK Tulsa World Staff Writer
(Reprinted with Permission. This is not an endorsement.)
Russ McKinnon left Oklahoma as a young musician 30 years ago this week.
He returned as a drummer for Barry Manilow on Friday night at the BOK Center.
Born and raised in Broken Arrow, McKinnon graduated from Broken Arrow High School in 1977. McKinnon moved to California after attending the University of Tulsa and the University of North Texas.
He built a name for himself through years as a professional musician and was invited to tour in Barry Manilow's band more than 10 years ago.
Music has always played a role in McKinnon's life. His mother was a choral music teacher at Broken Arrow Public Schools, and he taught percussion for Union and Broken Arrow.
For McKinnon, it's hard seeing schools struggle to keep arts programs.
"Musicians such as myself are so grateful for the music education that we had in public schools," he said. "We want to see that continue."
He emphasized how important it is for school systems to keep instrumental and choral music.
"It's so majorly important to people," McKinnon said. "It will change their lives. It definitely changed mine."
McKinnon included some of his band directors from junior high, high school and college on his guest list Friday night.
"They'll be sitting in the VIP section," he said.
McKinnon and the band are just coming off a seven-year run in Las Vegas, and they recently played in Dublin, London and other U.K. cities. He makes it back to Tulsa only about once a year but said his trips home are very relaxing.
"It's always a very grounding experience for me," he said.
McKinnon feels proud to know that big-name musicians are coming through Tulsa, and he said the BOK Center and the Tulsa community make it happen.
"That new BOK Center has really put you guys on the map, as far as all the big agents knowing about it," he said. "It just shows how resilient the Tulsa economy has been."