The Colts Drum and Bugle Corp, an internationally known ensemble, is practicing its latest set on Creston school fields ahead of a free community performance slated for 7 p.m. Friday at Panther Stadium.
The Colts Drum and Bugle Corps was founded as an American Legion junior corps in 1963 with 38 boys playing 24 horns, 10 drums and featuring two guards for the American Flag. It has since grown to boast programs made of more than 600 members annually during normal, non-pandemic years.
“It’s essentially marching band on steroids,” said Ryan Linke, music teacher at Creston Community Middle School and former Colts Drum and Bugle Corp member. “It’s a professional level marching band.”
Linke joined the Colts for its 2009 and 2010 seasons. He said the biggest difference between this drum and bugle corp and a school marching band is the caliber of the competitions and showmanship.
“From my experience, university marching band is ... you’re getting the crowd excited. In drum corps you’re telling a story and really bringing that theatrical component on the field, as well,” he said.
The audition process starts in the fall with weekend camps in Dubuque. Those who are chosen sign contracts to commit to the three month training season, which starts in May, and runs until competitions in August.
“It is a commitment,” said Linke. “I’ve heard people refer to it as almost ‘culty’ just because of the level of commitment and work that goes in to it. It is very intense. Very rigorous work.”
Linke said each season hundreds of individuals audition.
“One of the the things that sets the corps apart is everyone that’s there has the strongest desire in the world to do this,” Linke said.
One of those people is 2017 Creston Community High School graduate Maya Struhar, daughter of John and Adonica Struhar of Creston.
Struhar joined the organization in 2015 as a Colt Cadet at 15 years old. John, a trumpet player, marched with the Colts in 1986.
“He loved his experience and always talks so fondly of the memories he made and wanted to give me the same opportunity,” said Struhar.
Struhar has served as color guard captain since 2018. In high school, Struhar was involved in a number of extracurricular activities ranging from dance to cross country, which has helped prepare her for Colts rehearsals. But unlike her high school experience, practices with the Colts are 14-hour days, seven days a week, which she said are “a whole different beast.”
Struhar remembers her first year, which she said was very hard, but fun. She hopes others enjoy the experience as much as she has.
“What I like to tell young or new members is, ‘This is a very hard thing, but you can do hard things. Anyone can do hard things and hard things are easy to do when you have other people doing them with you,” she said.
Struhar said the first week is the hardest.
“You can prepare your body as much as possible by doing workouts and going on runs, but you’re never going to be completely ready for 14-hour a day rehearsals,” she said.
She said the organization does a good job of making sure its members are cared for by allowing them a full 8 hours of sleep each night and making sure they they are fed “really well.”
“I don’t know the exact calorie count, but it’s roughly two to three of what’s actually recommended for an adult just because we’re burning so many calories,” she said.
To feed its 154 member and nearly 50 volunteers on staff, a semi truck equipped with a full kitchen travels with the corps to provide approximately 800 meals daily. A second semi carries the equipment and the members are shuttled aboard five busses and five 15-passenger vans.
“We call it a circus for a reason,” Stuhar chuckled.
During morning and mid day rehearsals this week, the color guard, drum and brass sections rehearse on separate fields, and come together 6:30 p.m. each night this week to bridge together what they’ve worked on that day. The public is welcome to watch. Creston Panther Bands has published a full rehearsal schedule on its Facebook Page. The Colts Drum and Bugle Corp free performance with its color guard is 7 p.m. Friday at Panther Stadium.
For more information about the Colts Drum and Bugle Corp, visit colts.org.