Ken McGee

Lead Trumpet for the U.S. Army Blues

JMU School of Music Class of 1991


I was recruited in 1986 by the late Dr. George West, Director of Jazz Studies, and attended JMU as a trumpet performance major on a full scholarship and graduated in May of 1991. After receiving a Master's in Trumpet Performance from Northern Illinois University in 1993, I auditioned and won the position for lead trumpet in the US Military Academy Band's Jazz Knights. In October of 1999, I auditioned for The US Army Band "Pershing's Own" in Arlington, VA and served as the Lead/Commercial  trumpet soloist in the Concert Band. In April of 2012, I moved over to The US Army Blues, where I have been serving as split lead trumpet to present day.

It's been a wonderful and fascinating journey getting to where I am today, and there honestly is not one single part of that journey that I would change. As I reflect back on my career, I realize how valuable it was to me as a player, and as a person to have had the opportunity to sit next to some of the most incredible musicians in the country. One can not help but to become a better musician when in a situation like that!

I have many fond memories of JMU, enough to write a book on the subject. I would have to say my fondest memories involve the Marching Royal Dukes. For one thing, that's where I was dubbed with the nick name "Skawee" during band camp my freshman year. Somehow, it managed to stick, and I am honored use it to this day.

If I had to pick a single favorite memory, it would have to be a phrase that the trumpet section would routinely yell in unison over to the color guard during sectionals. This phrase, "The Trumpets love The Guard!" has special meaning to me because I ended up marrying one of those guard members!

I've have had many opportunities to return to JMU throughout the years. In addition to bringing the family to the MRD Alumni Band weekend, I've been back to teach a masterclass to the JMU trumpet studio, and run a sectional for the MRD trumpet section. A special highlight has been seeing our daughter perform trumpet solos with her high school marching band at JMU's Parade of Champions, on the same field that Angie and I had performed on with the MRDs! I also had the honor of returning in March of 2009 to perform in Jim Kluesner's Trumpet Studio Farewell Concert at Harrisonburg Baptist Church, and again in March of 2015 to perform with the JMU Alumni Jazz Ensemble at the dedication of the Tri-State Jazz Festival in honor of the late Dr. George West.

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