Colbert Franklin Hackler was born in 1918 in Mannsville, Oklahoma. He received his bachelor's degree in fine arts at Oklahoma City University, and obtained his master's and doctorate degrees in music education at the University of Oklahoma. Hackler worked as Elk City Schools' music educator for 23 years. He began teaching at the University of Oklahoma Laboratory School in 1960, and in 1972 he moved to the main campus to teach. He retired in 1981, but returned to teaching and performing music soon after.