Iowa women’s basketball star Caitlin Clark has changed basketball — and sports — over the course of her four-year career with the Hawkeyes.

She’s set the all-time scoring record for men’s and women’s college basketball. She’s helped bring drastically-increased visibility to women’s basketball both at Iowa and around the world. 

So, when Colts director Vicki MacFarlane compared Kara Metzger — a former drum major and current staff member for the Dubuque, Iowa corps — to the prolific point guard, it was no small comment. 

“I guess she’s like our Caitlin Clark,” MacFarlane said. “She’s the reason people want to keep coming back.”

Metzger currently serves as teaching assistant at the University of Iowa, where she works with the school’s athletic bands while pursuing her doctorate degree. As such, she’s rubbed shoulders with Clark a few times, and was leading the school’s pep band the night Clark made history as the all-time leading scorer in men’s and women’s college basketball. 

Last regular season game as a Hawkeye today, did not disappoint! I love it here at IOWA!

Posted by Kara Metzger on Sunday, March 3, 2024


“I feel like I just happened upon being here with Caitlin Clark,” Metzger said. “And I'm so thankful that I have.”

But Metzger’s connections — and subsequent impact on the people around her — go far beyond her proximity to basketball stardom. 

Since entering the Colts organization as a marching member in 2011, Metzger has left a profound mark on countless fellow performers, students and colleagues.

“She’s given so much more back to the Colts than I feel we ever could have given her,” MacFarlane said. “She’s helped both of our organizations grow. She still helps all students. She’s just incredibly special in her ability to do it all — musical, visual, administrative.”

While attending Waukesha South High School in Wisconsin, Metzger was introduced to the drum corps activity by her band director who told her he believed it was something she could do.

“So, I did it,” she said.

Metzger attended a Colts rehearsal camp with little background on how the drum corps activity worked, aside from the handful of videos she’d seen. 

When the camp concluded, she was ready to call it quits, but her father served as a voice of reason.

“When I came home, I thought I would never do drum corps again,’” she said. “And my dad said, ‘You like this kind of stuff, you're going to do it again.’”

Kara Metzger
Kara Metzger salutes the audience at the 2015 DCI World Championships.

Ultimately, it was the perfect fusion of two of her favorite things.

“I am obsessed with playing my instrument, and I was also obsessed with athletics,” she said. “And I felt like the two of those things combined was something that I would enjoy.”

Metzger’s career with Colts saw her experience five seasons of drum corps, including two in the role of drum major. Since aging out of drum corps in 2015, Metzger has worked in several roles with the Colts and Colt Cadets, as well as Blue Stars. She immediately joined the Dubuque, Iowa, organization’s staff in 2016, and has bounced between various roles with the two corps over the years, before recently landing as Colt Cadets’ brass caption supervisor.  

Over her decade-plus in the drum corps activity, she’s learned key lessons that parlayed directly into her career as an educator. Metzger said, as a performer, she learned the value of hard work, perseverance, teamwork and community.

“I can't do anything without a team,” she said. “There's no me; it's all of us. I think that building meaningful and lasting relationships is a very important thing that DCI taught me.”

Metzger’s career, though, spans far outside the drum corps activity. A 2016 graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, she began working as a public school teacher while simultaneously starting on Colt Cadets’ staff.

In 2019, she began pursuit of her master’s degree while working as a teaching assistant at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, before transitioning into her similar, doctorate-level role at Iowa.

Kara Metzger
Kara Metzger poses with Herky the Hawk, the University of Iowa's mascot. (Credit: Hawkeye Marching Band media team)


Metzger said, among many rewarding aspects of her role at Iowa, the opportunity to essentially do it all stands out. She’s been able to have a hand in arranging, design, conducting, logistics and more for a wide array of the school’s ensembles.

“Just having that wide experience, as well as working with the top two ensembles on campus,” she said, “those opportunities are super valuable and will help me in whatever my next positions are.”

For those looking to carve out a niche in the music education and drum corps industries, Metzger’s advice is simple. 

“Lead by example,” she said. “I'm not going to ask someone to do something, if I am not going to do it myself. I'm going to lead by example and not tell people what to do, but do it with them. People see that, and people respect that, and that's how you get where you want to be in life.”

MacFarlane confirmed it; that’s not just advice. It’s true of Metzger’s character.

“She has an ability to model what she asks of other people,” she said. “And she has an ability to maintain an even temperament, regardless of the challenge.”

And maybe, she added, those looking to succeed as drum corps performers can learn a thing or two from Caitlin Clark.

“She never gives up,” Metzger said. “I think that's something that, not just the women in drum corps, but everyone in drum corps can attest to, that's something that we all strive to do; we have to put in the work, regardless.” 

But if you ask one of her biggest role models, drum corps people can learn just as much, if not more, from Kara Metzger.

“She’s always focused, determined and helpful to get to a solution,” MacFarlane said. “Her ability to follow is as strong as her ability to lead, and I think that’s pretty special.”