Meet Christopher Surratt, an ‘Air Force brat’ who turned love of music into lifelong career

Christopher Surratt. CONTRIBUTED
Christopher Surratt. CONTRIBUTED

Experiences at Wright State and Wilberforce were life-changing, he says

Christopher Surratt is a longtime singer, nationally known music producer and executive who calls the Dayton area home.

Due to his magnetic personality, and his years of singing locally, Surratt’s name is known from churches to skating rinks. He also serves as Polemarch (president) of the Dayton alumni chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated.

We caught up with one of the Dayton area’s more interesting figures.

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: My name is Christopher Surratt, and I am 48 years of age. I’m originally from Little Rock, Arkansas. I have lived in Dayton since 1985.

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Q: What is it exactly that you do in the music industry?

A: That’s a loaded question. Currently I am an artist and repertoire consultant with my own firm called IGrynd Entertainment LLC. I am also a songwriter and producer.

Q: How did you break into the industry?

A: I’ve been a part of the music and entertainment industry since I was 12 years old. I toured Europe with one of Europe’s top artists in the ’80s, Bobby Farrell. I was one of the background dancers he called the School Kids, and we recorded the ’80s hit “The Happy Song.” In the ’90s I, along with a group of friends from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, were fortunate to win an audition for the hit show “Star Search” as dancers, and that led to me becoming a dancer for the chart-topping ’90s rap group from Dayton, Bonnie ‘N’ Clyde. In the early 2000s, I moved from dancing to music when a group of college classmates and myself from Wright State University formed the gospel trio Christopher. We released the Billboard-charting single “Yes” in 2006, and had moderate success.

Q: You performed in the Dayton area as a youth. What age were you when you started performing? Where did you perform?

A: I performed all over the city of Dayton between the ages 15 and 19. Mostly citywide talent shows and city festivals in Huber Heights, Dayton, Xenia, and even as far away as Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland.

Christopher Surratt. CONTRIBUTED
Christopher Surratt. CONTRIBUTED

Q: You attended Wright State University and Wilberforce University. What were those experiences like?

A: My experience at Wright State University changed my life. After my stint as a background dancer, I was really lost and didn’t have any direction. I met my best friend Christopher “Doc” Reid (world renowned relationship coach also from Dayton) who attended Wright State University. Hanging out with him on the campus made me long for the experience that all the students there were receiving. So, I enrolled at Wright State University, but I still lacked the focus at that time to complete my degree there. Which led me to enroll in Wilberforce University, the oldest private HBCU in America. Through their “Climb Program,” I found the support and focus to complete my degree in information technology. I wouldn’t trade my educational experience for anything, and as a young kid growing up on WPAFB, I never thought that the schools that were basically in my backyard would have such a profound influence on my life today.

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Q: What have you accomplished in the music industry? What songs have you worked on? Albums? Artists?

A: I have been fortunate to work with some of the music Industry’s top artists, independent and signed (to major music labels): Trin-i-tee 5:7, Amante Lacey, Eric Dawkins (Dawkins & Dawkins), Q Parker (112), Dorrell “BigMakk” Mays (Chris Brown, Whitney Houston), Christopher, Byron Cage’ LaTocha Scott (Xscape), Tonya Baker, WNBA Theme Song (2008) and a host of Independent records.

Q: Since you work in the recording industry, why do you live in Dayton? Why haven’t you moved to a more industry friendly city? Like Atlanta? Or Los Angeles, or New York?

A: Not for lack of wanting to move, Dayton just seemed more conducive to my lifestyle. I’m really close with my family and friends here in the city. I wanted my children to grow up with a sense of family, so I wanted them to be around family, which kept me here in Dayton.

Christopher Surratt. CONTRIBUTED
Christopher Surratt. CONTRIBUTED

Q: What are you working on musically, currently?

A: Since 2012, most of my work in the music industry has been behind the scenes as a music producer/ songwriter and A&R consulting. I have also made my way into the music publishing industry working with Veracity Entertainment, a music publishing admin company out of Atlanta.

Q: You belong to a fraternity. Tell us about it.

A: I am a member of the Dayton alumni chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated. This black Greek letter organization was founded January 5, 1911, on the campus of Indiana University at Bloomington. We serve as mentors in our community, and promote achievement in every field of human endeavor. The Dayton Chapter where I serve as the chapter Polemarch (president) has been around since 1946.

“Yo!!!” to the Good Brothers of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated.

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Q: You’re also a man of faith. How has that served you in your life?

A: I don’t know where I would be without my faith in God and certainly faith in myself. Growing up in the ’80s, we were always told that the average lifespan of a Black male was 25 years. Well, being 48, I’m walking up on five decades of living, learning, and achieving, and I account that to nothing but having faith in God and faith in my talents. And, I will use that same faith for the next 50 years.

Q: You have a daughter that’s attending a local college, am I correct?

A: Yes, I have a daughter that attends the University of Dayton, and I have a daughter that attends Northmont High School here in Englewood.

Q: What do you love about Dayton?

A: Being an Air Force brat, I always longed for a place to call home. Since 1985, Dayton has become home to me. Though I was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, whenever someone asked me where I’m from, I always said Dayton. It’s where I grew, it’s where I learned, it’s where I created lifelong friendships. It’s where I found my beautiful wife. That’s what I love about Dayton ... it’s where I found everything I needed.

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Q: What advice would you give to anyone who is looking to get into the music industry. What steps should they take?

A: Entering into the music industry is hard. If you’re not ready to hear 1,000 “No’s” just to hear one “Yes,” this is not the industry for you. Make a name for yourself in the city you live in, right here in Dayton. If you can get 10 people to listen to you in Dayton, then you can get 1,000 people that will listen in Ohio. If you can get 1,000 to listen in Ohio, then you can get 10,000 across the country. But it all starts right where you are, so start there.

Q: If you had to speak some words of inspiration to your fellow Daytonians, what would you say to them?

A: It’s important to understand that a city is only as pleasant, only as good, only as lively as the people in the city. If we want Dayton to be an example to the entire country of a model city, then we must become model citizens of Dayton. We must become citizens who will live, love and learn together. The world is a big place with a lot of problems, let the Gem in the Valley shine bright enough to give the world a light in the dark.

You can contact this writer at: grgsmms@gmail.com.