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Colt Cadets | Building A Foundation Of Leadership & Excellence

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About theColt Cadets

The Colt Cadets are an outstanding performing group primarily made up of members in middle school and high school from Dubuque and the tri-state area. Founded in 1967, the Colt Cadets are one of the few remaining cadet corps in the country. The corps is part of Drum Corps International's Open Class. In 2006, the Colt Cadets were named Most Improved Corps in DCI Division II (now known as Open Class). In 2009, the corps reached DCI Open Class Semifinals for the first time, and in 2010, became a DCI Open Class Finalist (among the top 12 in their division) for the first time in their history, and have continued to finish as Open Class Finalists ever since.


The Cadets require and help develop dedication, discipline, and motivation. Members learn leadership skills and confidence as they achieve goals they once thought were unattainable! We help develop a strong work ethic and a dedication to excellence that will stay with members in school and other activities.

School band experience is not required, but a desire to learn is. We teach the rest! Many students learn to play instruments or learn color guard (flag) skills here for the first time! We provide all instruments and uniforms.

You don't need any experience to be
part of the Colt Cadets!

In the summer of 2016, the Colt Cadets spend 45 days on the road, traveling to parades and competitions in the Midwest, performing for more than 75,000 people. Each year, the Colt Cadets travel in late June through early August, with time off to allow for family and other activities. We'll cap our season at Lucas Oil Stadium (home of the NFL Colts) in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Rehearsals during the school year begin on weekends in February. A detailed schedule of these preseason events is posted on the Schedule page in the fall. During the summer, our rehearsals are a comination of multi-day "camp style" events and a few 9:30-5:00 rehearsals. We can help busy parents find carpools!

Are you an out of town student interested in Colt Cadets?
Contact David Alford at to see if Colt Cadets is a possibility for you even if you live two hours or more from Dubuque, Iowa.

Experienced? We will challenge you, as well. We train advanced students to compete at a World Class level. Many members with advanced skills are featured in our summer show.

Goals of the Program

The Colt Cadets provide a positive, supportive, and educational environment that will:

  • Foster character development by challenging and teaching in ways that build confidence, self-discipline, work ethic, and team work.
  • Develop members' musical, performance, and physical skills to a level they did not know they could reach.
  • Support music and performance education in Dubuque.

Member Attendance

Attendance is very important for success. Each member is an equal and integral part of the whole, and any member missing is a detriment to the group's success. You should plan activities around the Cadets schedule as much as possible, but if you need to miss once in a while, we will work with you. We are very good at coordinating schedules with the members. Please speak with us regarding any questions or conflicts you might have.

Colt Cadets Family

We reach our goals through our unique instructional environment, rehearsal structure, performances, and travel opportunities. You'll meet many new friends from other schools and from other groups throughout the country. The bonds we develop as we work together are much like a family. Some of your best friends are here, you just haven't met them yet!

Teaching Staff

Our teaching staff comes from all over the U.S. and are exceptional in their area of expertise. Most work as professional educators during the school year. The staff is experienced in preparing students for many opportunities. We put student success first. Our goal is to maintain a positive learning environment that challenges individuals to try new things and reach their maximum potential.

Parents Make It Work!

We actively encourage family involvement, so everyone shares the rewards of the drum corps experience. Most parents volunteer in some way with bingo, travel, miscellaneous projects, sewing, cooking, or driving. Parents are encouraged to visit rehearsals and share in what is being learned in all aspects of our program.

Sections in the Colt Cadets

BRASS members include students who currently play brass, woodwind players who wish to learn a second instrument, and those who have never played an instrument before. We use silver-plated Bb instruments (same keys as band instruments). Players who are band members use their own mouthpiece to compliment embouchure development. We use four brass instruments: Trumpet (also referred to as Soprano), Mellophone (same as trumpet in method, but sound is more like a French horn), Baritone (same sound and mouthpiece as baritone or trombone) and Contra (similar to tuba).

We play and teach all PERCUSSION instruments. The "Battery" section consists of snare drum, tenor drums, bass drums and cymbals. The battery is the marching percussion section you see on the field. The "Front Ensemble" includes mallet percussion instruments such as xylophone, marimba and orchestra bells, as well as a collection of smaller percussion instruments and cymbals. This section remains stationary on the front sideline, as their instruments are too large to carry on the field.

We use flags, props and lots of dance in the COLOR GUARD. This section of the corps visually interprets and enhances the music. Some woodwind players join this section,but again, no previous experience is required.


2016 Membership Fees

Membership costs $775 tuition plus $200 equipment and uniform fee. You receive a $50 discount for each additional member from the same family. Members can earn most or all of their fees through credits for working at our bingo as well as other fundraising opportunities. Out-of-town individuals that require summer housing pay an additional fee that is given to their host family for living expenses.

Members receive:

  • Use of instruments, equipment, and uniform
  • 350+ hours of professional instruction
  • Approx 200 well balanced meals, prepared "on the road"
  • 5000+ miles of travel in Colts-owned charter buses
  • Housing while on the road
  • Trips to 6-9 states throughout the Central U.S.
  • Admission to DCI Championship events in Indianapolis, IN

The average value of the instrument, equipment and uniform that is issued to each student is over $1,000. Call at any time with questions about any aspect of the Cadets, including financial and fundraising programs. We work hard to make membership available to everyone.

We will work with you to make membership a reality!

Colts Youth Organization

The Colts Youth Organization was founded in 1963 and offers the Colts and Colt Cadets Drum & Bugle Corps, Vocal Fusion choral program, PanrhythmiX and Pandemonium steel drum ensembles, and the Colts Summer Band. Over 350 members from 3rd grade through age 21 are members of a Colts program.

The Colts Drum & Bugle Corps is the flagship program and has grown to 150 members, ages 16-21. The Colts travel, rehearse and perform full-time all summer, performing 40+ times for over 250,000 people in 20 or more states, covering 14,000 miles. Colts members are from Dubuque and the tri-state area, more than 20 other states, and even overseas.

Financial Picture

A prominent and successful collaboration of organizations, such as the Colts, is expensive to operate. All of our funds are self-generated. We receive little in the way of federal, state or local funds, and we do not receive United Way funding.

Funding for the Organization

6% Bingo and other fundraising projects by the Colts Booster Club
42% Membership fees from the Colts and Colt Cadets
19% Performance fees earned by the Colts and Colt Cadets in the summer
7% Profits from our annual Music On The March shows and souvenir sales
26% Direct donations and support from businesses and individuals


Our non-profit organization is governed by the Corporation Board and supported by a second non-profit corporation, the Colts Booster Board. The Corporation Board is responsible for policy and planning, while the Boosters manage local fundraising activities including bingo and our annual car wash. A full-time Executive Director handles the business operations and overall management of the organization. Donations to the Colts are tax-deductible.

Are the Colt Cadets for You?

Try it! Your first few practices are a trial period for you. There is no obligation to join and no charge to attend. You'll be amazed at how much you learn in a short amount of time! Your first standing ovation is something you'll never forget, and what you learn in the process will stay with you for the rest of your life!


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