McKinley fell in love with the cello at the age of three, when she started training in classical music. By six, she joined a traditional music group, and has been performing in both languages since then. She studies at the New England Conservatory with Yeesun Kim, and performs regularly around New England.
On the classical side, she has soloed with the Lake Champlain orchestra, and toured China with her piano trio.
Her trad music adventures began with Fiddleheads, until a group of them started the band, The Irregulars, who went on to win awards and make a CD. At New England Conservatory, McKinley was part of Night Tree band, which won the Honors Ensemble, created two CDs, placed #6 on the Folk Music charts, toured the US and Sweden, and was played all across the UK on the BBC.