After three years of auditioning for the Colts Drum and Bugle Corps of Dubuque, Creston Community High School senior Maya Struhar finally received the news she’d been waiting for.
She immediately broke down in tears.
Maya finally achieved her dream of being selected for the Colts Drum and Bugle Corps. The previous two years, she had been selected for the Colt Cadets, the open-class corps that serves as a feeder system for the Colts.
“It was a big deal. I’m super excited about it,” Maya said. “It’s a big deal to me and a big deal to my family. My dad marched Colts back in the day, so it’s been his dream since I was little that I would someday follow in his footsteps and march in Colts.”
Struhar is the daughter of John and Adonica Struhar of Creston. John marched with the Colts in 1986, when he was the lead soprano bugle player.
“It was probably the most transformational experience in terms of transforming from a youth to an adult,” John said about his experience with the Colts. “You spend your whole childhood being treated like a child. That was the first time somebody said, ‘Look at this really incredible thing. It’s possible, but it’s up to you.’”
The Colts are named “Iowa’s Ambassadors of Music” by the governor of Iowa and are an elite, nationally ranked world-class competitive drum and bugle corps.
Maya will be a member of the color guard section in the Colts. Members are selected through a competitive audition process and are between the ages of 16 and 21 years old. Approximately 450 youth auditioned for one of the 150 positions in the group.
When Maya first auditioned for the Colts, she auditioned as a mellophone player. When organizers found out she was a dancer, they suggested she try out for color guard.
She performed well in the dance portion of the tryout, but struggled with the flag portion since she had no experience with flags at that point.
Still, she eventually earned a spot with the Colt Cadets as color guard captain. After filling that role the past two years, Maya is ready to join the Colts this year.
“I actually learned so much at the open class level last year,” Maya said. “I was really disappointed for a long time not being selected for Colts, but I learned a lot more and grew a lot more as a person than I thought I would. I had more responsibilities than I knew I would have.”
The Colts travel and perform throughout the summer, beginning Memorial Day weekend, and concluding the second week of August. The group will be in session 80-plus days and perform more than 30 times for an audience estimated to number more than 200,000 people while traveling through 22 states.
The Drum Corps International World Championship Finals will be held Aug. 10-12 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The Colts will compete in major shows in Dallas, San Antonio, Minneapolis, Atlanta and Allentown, Pennsylvania, among other locations.
“My favorite show this summer will be the one in Waukee,” Maya said. “It’s the one that’s closest to home, so it’s the one I’ll have the most family and friends at. Also, world championships in Lucas Oil Stadium sells out for three days. Just to be standing on that field at the end of your show and have 80,000 people stand up and clap for what you just did, it’s super rewarding.”
The group lives on the road the entire summer, sleeping and showering in school gymnasiums and eating meals prepared in a semi-turned kitchen truck staffed by volunteers.
The Colts have ranked in the top 25 of all drum corps for the past 33 years, including top-12 international finalist status eight of the past 22 years. There are more than 40 competitive corps in the country.
“There are fewer drum corps today than when I marched,” John said. “It’s a lot more challenging to get into a drum corps now than it used to be. There’s a higher level of talent, and it takes a high level of talent and dedication to get int a world-class drum corps. For her to actually make Colts is something I was extremely proud of. She was very patient with it and continued to do the hard work. She didn’t give up.”
After having made bonds with so many new friends the past two years with the Colt Cadets, Maya is looking forward to the memories she’ll make this year with the Colts.
“Something I’ve found with my past two years is it’s not the performances you remember, it’s the moments in between,” she said.