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Lance Cpl. Dantre A. Strobridge, postal clerk, Headquarters Battalion, is a musician and artist. At a young age, he began to see art and music as an invaluable form of expression, learning to play piano, guitar and percussion as well as draw portraits. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz/Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz

What I've Learned: Dantre Strobridge

19 May 2016 | Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

I was born and raised in Augusta, Ga. I graduated high school there and went to D.C. to attend college. I went to the University of the District of Columbia for about a year and a half before I joined the Marine Corps.

My father died when I was four in a car accident and I grew up as an only child, but I’ve always wanted brothers and sisters. I’m glad I joined the Marine Corps because now I have them.

The Marine Corps has opened so many doors for me so I want to give back as much as possible to the Corps. It actually changed my life and gave me that push I needed to keep going.

When I moved to D.C., I was in school for a while before things got really rough. I became homeless but I kept my job. I had to cover it up from my boss so I would wander around or sleep near work to make sure I was there on time.

After a while, I realized that I wanted to do something where people would see that I’m here while also making a difference. I saw that in the Marine Corps, so I enlisted.

Going through recruit training after the challenges I faced broke me down even more but the Marine Corps built me up into something great. From where I was to where I am now, I appreciate everything.

My great-grandfather was a big influence on my life and my decision to join the military. He served in the Army during WWII. I was an average high school student but he always instilled in me the importance of education and wanted to see me graduate. He passed away a month or two before I graduated, which really tore me up inside.

I was going to school for a major in music and a minor in art. My great-grandfather taught me how to play guitar and I started playing piano when I was 6 years old. I’ve always been able to play by ear. If I hear something I can learn to play it. I also played in marching band from middle school all the way through high school as a percussionist.

I enjoy pretty much all music. I like jazz and my great-grandfather, who was born in the 20s, was into blues and introduced me to artists like Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson. Over time, I moved on to Jimi Hendrix and that eventually got me interested in the Rock and Metal genres.

I think there’s something about creating music that lifts you up. Growing up, I always felt like I had no one to talk to. Music became sort of a way of speaking for me. When I was feeling down, I would play my guitar or piano.

The most challenging part of music for me is learning a song while still learning the instrument. Music is very technical and while I can play by ear, I’d rather try to understand the instrument. Understanding the instrument and learning the song is very stressful but the end state makes it worth the effort.

The music industry is very hard to get into. A lot of people listen to the mainstream music artists but there are so many great artists underground. Out on the streets of D.C., there are homeless people with instruments who are amazing. They only make a couple dollars from tips and it’s hard to make it big.

As an only child, I was always in my head. I thought if I was a super hero I’d be able to do this and that, so I would draw comics of myself or super heroes everyone knows like Superman and Spiderman.

Inspiration for art usually comes from how I feel at the moment. I could be out and pass a place or car and think it looks cool so I’ll draw it. I’m a good artist but artists are the hardest on themselves. They always notice the mistakes they make.

I drew a portrait of my great-grandfather modeled after the photo he took when he was in basic training for the Army. I made it for him about a month or so before he passed and while I was working on it he would come by every day to see me [create] it piece by piece.

I want to be a drill instructor to help those recruits who might feel the way I felt while I was there. I want to instill in them the confidence and desire to become something great.

If I do decide to get out of the Marine Corps, I will hopefully become a police officer. I want to be able to help and protect people.

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms