Darron McKinney



As a young man, Wayne County Sheriff's Deputy Darron McKinney played saxophone in church and later in gospel ensembles while studying music at Southern University in Louisiana. He often found himself playing alongside jazz notables Branford Marsalis, Joe Sample and once with legendary trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.
While many saw McKinney's name in lights, he knew deep down public service as a policeman was his mission.

Two years ago, he produced A Call to Courage, a song of commitment to the badge. With help from his brother, Nathan McKinney, and lyricist Kareem, the trio crafted the CD, which contains the tune sung by Nichelle Colvin and an instrumental version. The tribute to the men and women who protect the public was distributed to record stores throughout Metro Detroit.

"I just saw a need to capture the essence of what we do in law enforcement and to write a song that would bring police and those in public service closer to God," McKinney said.

Ever since the September tragedies, music stores can barely keep up with demand for the patriotic tune. In Metro Detroit, McKinney's compact disc is becoming a local hit.

Sandy Bean, vice-president of advertising for Harmony House records, said that sales of patriotic-theme recordings haven't soared as high since the gulf war.
"Music is a very powerful elicitor of memory and emotion," said Wayne State University graduate psychology instructor Ty Partridge.

U.S. citizens may be gravitating toward patriotic tunes because it moves them beyond their identities of being New Yorkers or Detroiters or any of the qualifiers that segment members of society, Partridge said.
"It's a combination of a shared experience in that these songs are reminders that we, as Americans, have a common experience, a common heritage," Partridge said.

When Bishop David L. Ellis of the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit heard McKinney's song, he was moved to tears.
"The melody and the lyrics are very soothing and certainly appropriate," Ellis said. "It memorializes those in law enforcement who have really gone beyond the line of duty or given the ultimate sacrifice."
McKinney shies away from the publicity that tends to accompany the spotlight. He'd prefer focusing on charitable acts, which sometimes includes paying homage to officers killed in the line of duty. He performs on his own time with a chorale of local law enforcement officers, most recently for fallen Detroit Police Officer Neil Wells Jr., who was shot to death by a suspect during a narcotics raid in April.

"It's sad and humbling, and never gets easy," McKinney said.
The grief he feels over losing a brother or sister in blue is tempered with the joy of reaching out to at-risk youth. As the father of 8-year-old Corey and 1-year-old Briana, McKinney looks forward to mentoring area young people.

While playing in the Brown Bears band, McKinney complemented the Detroit Police Department's Blue Pigs musical group by playing at elementary, middle and high schools. And even though he now plays jazz with the Jam Squad, he'll never forget the youngster who praised his rendition of 9-1-1 is Not a Joke and told McKinney the rap remake opened his eyes to the importance of emergency numbers.

"But it's not just the music; we mentor them about drug awareness, personal respect and crime prevention," McKinney said. "I am thankful ... that I can enforce the law, and in some circumstances, minister through my position as well."
McKinney has pledged to donate a portion of his CD sales to the families of the officers who perished in the World Trade Center tragedy. The CD sells for about $6.

Paula Bridges is a Metro Detroit free-lance writer.