15th Marine Expeditionary Unit
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., Nov. 3, 2011 – A desire to serve his country and his love of music influenced Lance Cpl. Richard B. Orellana to join the Marine Corps.
Orellana said he started playing the drums when he was 5 years old. At age 13, he taught himself the guitar. At 19, he picked up the trombone.
“There’s always something I can learn. I try to keep pushing myself creatively,” he said.
Orellana’s devotion to music paid off when he auditioned for and was accepted into the Los Angeles Unified School District All-City Honor Marching Band as a junior in high school.
“Richard was the best drummer to ever come through Chatsworth High School, which is why I recommended him for the all-city band,” said Larry O. Williams, Chatsworth High School’s band director. “I remember him as a freshman -- he was so talented, but controlling his energy was the real challenge.”
Orellana’s talent doesn’t end with being an exceptional musician. He also found that he could draw. His high school art teacher, he said, saw his sketches and challenged him to take advanced-level courses.
During his junior year, Orellana competed in a nationwide art competition, which earned him a scholarship to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. He recalled he was surprised at how comfortable he felt with a pen and sketchpad.
“I took courses in design and illustration -- I had found my niche,” he said.
However, Orellana’s scholarship ran out after he’d attended a trimester at the school, and his family could not afford to pay for his art classes or music lessons.
“I was crushed, devastated, you name it,” he said. “I couldn’t believe that my dreams couldn’t be fulfilled because of my economic background.”
Orellana said he found himself making bad decisions and heading toward trouble.
“I needed to get away from that trouble back home and get set on a straight and narrow path,” he said, speaking of a time when he needed discipline in his life. Orellana decided he would join the Marine Corps and audition for the Marine Corps Band.
Before his final audition for the Marine band, Orellana injured his finger skateboarding and was unable to complete the audition. He needed to depart for recruit training and had to reclassify for training in an administration job.
“Orellana is very good at what he does,” said Marine Corps Cpl. Michael A. Travis, Orlellana’s supervisor at the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit here. Orellana, he said, is considering becoming a combat illustrator so that he can use his creative talents.
“He needs a specialty where he can be more free,” Travis said. “Being creative is his ‘thing.’ … He has made creative cover pages, unit symbols and designed different things for our section.”
Meanwhile, Orellana is still making music. He has a drum set in his barracks room, and sometimes plays at local venues.
Orellana said he also makes time to help out his fellow Marines.
“If there’s one thing I’ll always take from my time in the Marine Corps, it’s to look out for others,” Orellana said. “I want to be that person who can help, not only artistically, but also morally, to make sure [other Marines] have that role model who will keep them out of trouble.”