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The History of Drum Corps in Cedar Rapids


The heritage of the Emerald Knights Drum and Bugle Corps extends far back into Cedar Rapids, Iowa history. 

Here is a timeline put together using a history in the 1976 Tournament of Drums program and several online sites. 

If you have additions or corrections, please email them to ekreunion@yahoo.com. 


1927 – Drum corps activity in Cedar Rapids began when 12 charter members formed the Cedar Rapids Playground Drum and Bugle Corps, which was the first drum and bugle corps in Iowa. The corps grew in size and performed in parades and local celebrations until 1931, when it started competing in contests. 

Early 1930s – The Boys Drum and Bugle Corps of Cedar Rapids started with a membership of 72 boys.

Early 1930s -  The VFW began sponsoring a new corps called the Musketeers Drum and Bugle Corps, which was one of the most successful corps in the country in the late thirties and early forties, winning a National Title in Chicago in 1936 and state VFW championships in ’32, ’33, ’34, ’37, ’40 and ’41.

1938 – The all-girl Cedar Rapids Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps was formed.  In 1941, Moose Lodge No. 304 began sponsoring the corps and the corps was renamed the “Cedar Rapids Moose Girls.” This corps won National Moose Competitions in ’47, ’48 and ’49.

Late 1930s – The Cedar Rapids Drum and Bugle Corps was organized and sponsored by the YMCA. This corps was a nine-time winner in international competition, including the International Lions Club convention in 1942. They also appeared at the World’s Fair in New York and were the first corps to appear on television in the U.S.

1950 – The Cedar Rapids Drum and Bugle Corps changed its name to the Cedar Rapids Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps. The Cadets won seven national and two international titles, as well as many regional titles. The Cadets also had a successful “B” corps, which began in 1959 and acted as a feeder corps for the Cadets. The “Bees” were popular at parades and exhibitions in Eastern Iowa.

1964 – The Cadets changed their name to the Grenadiers Drum and Bugle Corps.  The Grenadiers were very successful,  placing either first or second in the American Legion State every year of their existence (1964-1970). The Grenadiers also had a “B” corps,  the  Grenadier Cadets, which appeared in many parades and competitions.

1965 – The Emerald Knights Drum and Bugle Corps was organized with 28 charter members. In 1971, the corps was the first Iowa corps to compete in the U.S. Open in Marion, Ohio, finishing 12th in the “B” Corps competition.  In 1972, they joined the Mid-America Circuit, winning the Class II competition, and in 1975, the corps won the Iowa American Legion State title. 

Other highlights include:
1976 Drum Corps International Class A Finals 6th Place
1977 American Legion Finals 5th Place
1978 Drum Corps Midwest Finals 10th Place
1983 Drum Corps International Quarter Finalist; Drum Corps Midwest Finals 9th place
1984 Drum Corps International Quarter Finalist; Drum Corps Midwest Finals 6th place
1987 Drum Corps International Class A-60 Finals 2nd Place; Drum Corps Midwest Division III Finals 1st Place
1988 Drum Corps International Class A-60 Finals 2nd Place; Drum Corps Midwest Division III Finals 1st Place
1989 DCI Midwest Class A-60 Finals 2nd Place
1990 DCI Midwest Class A-60 Finals 4th Place

1991– The Emerald Knights merged with the Knights of Geneseo for one season and were called the “Knights.”

1992-1996 – The Emerald Knights were renamed “Nite Express,” and finished as high as 22nd place in 1994 and 21st in 1996 in Division I competition at the Drum Corps International Championships.
Score Highlights:
1993 Drum Corps Midwest Division III Finals, 1st Place
1994 Drum Corps International Quarter Finalist, 22nd place; DCI Division II Finals, 2nd place
1995 Drum Corps Midwest Finals 7th Place
1996 Drum Corps International Quarter Finalist, 21st place; DCI Division II Finals, 3rd place

2001– After several years of inactivity, the Emerald Knights came back for one final season.

2015 - A group of about 60 alumni put on a standstill performance at Kingston Stadium for the Tournament of Drums competition to mark the corps' 50th anniversary.

Note:  For more scores and placements for Emerald Knights/Nite Express from 1972-2001 at the Drum Corps International championships and other DCI/DCM contests, please visit “
From the Pressbox.”