Beyond The Uniform - Trent McKinney

By Cullen Sadler

April 18, 2023

Trent McKinney

Trent McKinney, 2023-2024 LSU Drum Major

A new season brings a new leadership team to the LSU Tiger Marching Band, including a drum major ready to lead those legendary four notes in Death Valley. Join us in welcoming Trent McKinney, our drum major for 2023-2024!

Each drum major brings unique perspective and a fresh approach to their historic position within the Tiger Band. We recently had the chance to sit down with Trent and chat about his background, and his goals for the upcoming season.

The following interview has been edited for clarity.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself!

TM: Currently, I am a sophomore pursuing a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a member of Kappa Kappa Psi, Beta Gamma Chapter. I was born and raised in Slidell, Louisiana, just an hour and a half drive from LSU.

From the time I started school, teachers have brought their Tiger Band members to perform and talk about their love of the organization. By the time 5th grade rolled around, I was eager to join my middle school band on the clarinet, though I later stretched out with the support and encouragement of my band directors Mr. Sambola and Mr. Lee Hicks to play saxophone and flute.

I played sax and clarinet for the Jazz Ensemble One at Fontainebleau High School where I also served as our marching band's drum major for my junior and senior years. I’ve played the clarinet for two years in the Tiger Band, and this year I have the honor of serving as the drum major for the 2023 season! 

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Q: What brought you to LSU as a student, and furthermore, the Tiger Marching Band as a member?

TM: I’ve been a Tiger fan all my life. Growing up, I even painted my bedroom walls purple and gold with a Tiger-eye mural above my bed.  When it came time to apply to colleges, LSU was at the top of my list without a doubt, so I was thrilled when I was accepted!

Along with a quality education, one of the main factors that drew me to LSU was the opportunity to join the Tiger Band. I’ve loved the band for as long as I can remember, so much so that, as a kid, I would repeatedly listen to all the school songs on iTunes. Becoming a member of the Tiger Band has been nothing short of a dream come true.

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Q: What motivated you to pursue the position of drum major?

TM: Though I grew up seeing Tiger Band a lot, my first real exposure to the drum major was during the 2019 LSU Spring Football Game, which is also when they give high schoolers an opportunity to come and play with the Tiger Band during the game. Participating in this event was an incredible experience, but the most vivid memory from that day was seeing the incoming drum major, Taylor Brownfield, take the podium for the first time in Death Valley. I remember being awe-struck at his presence and thinking “Wow, it must be amazing to lead this band. I wish I could do that someday!”

The LSU drum major always seemed to embody the ideal qualities of a leader - someone who was confident, approachable, and organized - and I wanted to be that person for this band. Tiger Band has always had a special place in my heart, so being able to contribute to the legacy of this program for its 130th year as the drum major just doesn't feel real. I’m not sure it ever will.

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Q: How are you preparing for this exciting new role? What goes into becoming drum major of the Tiger Marching Band?

TM: There’s a lot that goes into being the drum major for the Tiger Band, but for me, the preparation began even before the auditions. I spent countless hours practicing the pregame mace routine, developing my conducting skills, and studying the marching fundamentals required to teach others. And even after being announced as the drum major, I've been constantly pushing myself to get better.

Every day, I spend time developing and refining my mace work while also practicing conducting every opportunity I have. This includes rehearsing various tempos, patterns, and the music that we will be performing this next season. Currently, my focus is on learning the routine for gamedays and getting ready for the 2023 LSU Spring Football Game. In addition, I’ve been collaborating with this year's leadership team to discuss our goals and exchange ideas on how to make this the best season yet for Tiger Band and the best gameday experience for everyone!

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Q: What attracted you to become part of LSU’s music and band programs?

TM: I understand the time commitment required for these groups can seem daunting, but as someone who’s been in a concert ensemble and Tiger Band, I've found that it's actually been a great way for me to manage my time and stay focused on my academic work. In fact, I often look forward to rehearsals as a chance to take a break from the stress and workload of my other classes and make music with my friends. And if you’re still not convinced, I can honestly say that I’ve met some of my best friends through the music programs at LSU, and that’s something I will never take for granted.

So, if you're on the fence about participating in music while studying at LSU, I would strongly encourage you to take advantage of all the different performance opportunities LSU has to offer! From the 325-member Tiger Band to smaller chamber groups and ensembles, there’s something for everyone to join. Even better, most of these groups are open to students of all majors, so you don't need to be a music expert to participate, and it gives you the opportunity to interact with students from different backgrounds and majors.