A Look at Ascend’s Wild Weekend at Colfax

DENVER, CO – It was an incredibly busy and exciting weekend for Ascend Performing Arts. Not only did the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps move in for all-day rehearsals, the Ascend team was able to attend the 10th annual Kaiser Permanente Colfax Marathon as a Charity Partner.

There were over 190 charity partners for the 10th anniversary of this marathon, many of which could be found among the bright, blue-peaked tents of Charity Partner Village. The Village was thick with the excitement of around 20,000 runners, friends, and families, and served as excellent exposure for the non-profit partners. Not only was the Ascend tent a finalist for the “Best Tent” award, being in the Charity Partner Village gave Ascend the chance to gain some visibility and spread the word about what makes them special–it is a local organization with a global impact.

Photo May 16, 10 53 26 AM
Volunteer Bob Mayhew guides a the drum pad for a young Fastest Drummer competitor.

The team promoted ensembles, education clinics, and events, connected with Blue Knights alumni and runners, and hosted a “Fastest Drummer Contest.” This contest was incredibly popular with children and adults alike, and offered the winner free tickets to what Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps executive director and Ascend CEO Mark Arnold calls “one of our greatest events of the summer:” Drums Along the Rockies. Using a Drumometer (a drum pad and a meter counting the number of times the pad is hit in a set period), passers-by had the opportunity to see how fast their hands were in 30-second intervals. The winner of the “Open” division contest, Reno Mulumulu, had a score of 426 beats in 30 seconds (that’s a wild 14.2 beats per second)! In the “Alumni” division, 1987 Blue Knights top bass drum Eric “Breadloaf” Rine clocked an incredible 650+ beats! The contest was a great way to interact with the runners and families, and talk to them about what Ascend does. The favorite tagline was, “We know you have fast feet, but how are your hands?”

Presence at this event helped Ascend gain some recognition not only through the Charity Partner Village, but also through the publicity before and during the event. One of the most cherished things about the Colfax Marathon is that it’s all for charity, and they do their best to raise as much awareness about their partners as possible. Ascend was featured especially often–the Communications and Marketing director, Gregory “GM” Kuzma, appeared as a guest on the Colorado & Company TV show, and was interviewed on Fox 31; Ascend was one of the few charities that was featured on the news broadcast.

Mark Arnold’s interview at the Marathon finish line

In addition to all that, director Mark Arnold had an interview at the finish line where he highlighted what Ascend does in front of a crowd of thousands. He touched on the three facets of the organization, all of which serve to further the mission to “Elevate Life Performance.” Arnold told the interviewer, “We create a stage in which young people pursue excellence through music,” and this is done through our performing ensembles (Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps, Blue Knights Percussion Ensemble, and Broncos Stampede and Broncos Brass), which provides our 200+ performers with a vehicle to showcase their excellence to thousands of people worldwide. On top of that, Ascend provides a stage for these performers as well, through hosting of events like Drums Along the Rockies and Corps Encore during the summer, and Friendship Cup scholastic marching band shows in the Fall. Ascend also stresses the importance of music education, and thus hosts multiple BKXperience clinics year-round that reach thousands of students.

The Blue Knights Relay Team L to R: Andriy Sovetov, Grant Vincent, Mikala Mortensen, Andrew Precoor, and Myles Giller

Mark Arnold wasn’t just at the finish line for the interview–he participated in one of the Colfax Marathon Relay teams that signed up to #RunForAscend. The relay teams divided the 26.2 mile marathon into five increments of varying length. Ascend had two teams running: a team in the Corporate Division, made up of Ascend staff members (including Arnold), and an Open Division team made up of some of the fastest 2015 Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps members, Grant Vincent, Andriy Sovetov, Mikala Mortensen, Andrew Precoor, and drum major Myles Giller.

Eric "Breadloaf" Rine, a Blue Knights alumnus, #RanForAscend in the Half-Marathon and won the "Alumni" division of the Fastest Drummer Contest.
Eric “Breadloaf” Rine, a Blue Knights alumnus, #RanForAscend in the Half-Marathon and won the “Alumni” division of the Fastest Drummer Contest.

Rod Kosterman, Blue Knights pit tech, ran as part of the Ascend Performing Arts team and had an experience he will never forget. “Our mission statement is to ‘Elevate Life Performance’, right?” he said, when asked about his decision to run. “I had never done a race before, but being in drum corps taught me to, well, run. Ever since then, I’ve had some opportunities but never really pushed myself, so having the opportunity to be part of a team–a team that was a family I cared about–was a great motivator for me to push myself, to elevate my life performance.”

Both teams finished in great time, the Ascend team–with Cody Arnold, Rod Kosterman, Jordan Jacobsen, Gregory “GM” Kuzma, and led by Mark Arnold–finished in 3 hours and 43 minutes, which is an 8:32 mile pace, crushing their initial sub-9:00 minute team goal. The Blue Knights team’s finishing time was 3 hours 27 minutes–that’s a 7:42 mile pace! Their speedy pace landed them in 10th place out of the 342 teams in their division, and in the top 6% of the overall relay teams. Afterwards, they enjoyed some free Jim & Nick’s Barbecue and spent a little time around the tent before returning to the corps for 11 hours of rehearsal! It goes without saying: they never stop pursuing excellence.

People crowd together on the starting line of the Colfax 5K.

Supporters in the community also came out to #RunForAscend. Sarah Anderson (Ascend Communications & Marketing Intern), Jordan Jacobsen, and Gregory “GM” Kuzma ran the 5K on Saturday, Christopher Paschke ran the Urban 10-Miler, Eric Rine ran the Half Marathon, and Damian Berger and Michele Hancock ran the full Marathon in support of the organization.

It probably helped to see some friends along the way–Ascend ensembles including the Broncos Brass, Broncos Stampede, and Blue Knights Percussion Ensemble played along the race route during the marathon and helped provide the upbeat, fun, and exciting atmosphere for which the Colfax Marathon is becoming known.

At the end of it all, though exhausted, Ascend is looking back at the Colfax Marathon weekend and can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment…  It was an invaluable experience for Ascend Performing Arts, and they look forward to taking part in another amazing Colfax Marathon weekend next year.

Watch a video recap by Stephen Bates, Communications & Marketing Intern, of this exciting weekend!



rachelfaceRachel Hanna is a native of Des Moines, Iowa and is currently pursuing degrees in Communication and in English at Truman State University, located in northeast Missouri.

Rachel has been a passionate supporter of music and the marching arts for many years; she performed in Truman’s Statesmen Color Guard in 2014, was on the founding executive board & design team of Amethyst Independent Winter Guard in 2015, and has been involved in various choirs throughout her life. She continues her involvement in Truman State’s music department through Sigma Alpha Iota, a national women’s music fraternity. She is excited to combine her professional communication interest with her love for the arts as a member of this brand new internship team.

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Ken Adams


Mark Arnold is one of the longest-serving Directors in Drum Corps International, serving as Executive Director of the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps since 1985 and as CEO of Ascend Performing Arts since 2010.

Under his leadership the Blue Knights organization has developed into one of the premier Drum and Bugle Corps in the history of the activity, recognized Internationally for excellence and innovation in the performing arts. Through the years the Blue Knights has expanded its programing and now serves thousands of young musicians and performers annually in multiple performing ensembles, events and educational programs under the umbrella of the Ascend Performing Arts.

In addition to shaping the course of Ascend Performing Arts, Mark also has played an integral role in the ongoing development and successes of Drum Corps International as a collective. He served as chairman of the DCI Board of Directors in 1994 and again from 2008 to 2013. Mark was honored as Corps Director of the Year in 2004, and was the inaugural recipient of the George Bonfiglio Chairman’s Award at the 2012 DCI World Championships, which is given to an individual each year who demonstrates extraordinary leadership and service on behalf of DCI and its performing drum corps.  Mark was inducted into the DCI Hall of Fame in 2014 and the Blue Knights Hall of Fame in 2019.

Prior to his position with the Blue Knights, Mark was the Assistant Director of the Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps from 1978 through 1983, serving alongside Director Jim Jones, one of the founders of Drum Corps International and an inaugural member of the DCI Hall of Fame.  Mr. Arnold has a degree in Music Education from the University of Wyoming and taught High School Music in Wyoming and Nebraska from 1979 through 1985.
Mark Arnold


Scott Factor has served on the Ascend Performing Arts Board from 2012 to 2018 as a voting member in various positions including Vice-Chairman. Since 2019 my role has been in an Advisory position.

Outside of Ascend Performing Arts i am Senior Account Executive for Baxter HealthCare.
Scott Factor


I am currently an Ascend Board Member-at-Large.  I have been a volunteer with the Blue Knights since 2013.  I have been serving on the BoD since 2019.  I retired from the United States Postal Service in 2010.  Although I have never marched drum corps I am an avid fan of the activity and thoroughly support our members in any way that I can.  “We Go On”!!! 

Neil Corvino


Board member Kathy Black is an attorney in New Mexico practicing as a full-time litigator focused on employment and civil rights defense. She came to the law as a second career after twenty-five years in high tech with NCR Corporation, doing everything from operating systems programming to Vice President positions in engineering, customer services, and sales. She earned her JD from Lewis & Clark Law School and her BA from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Ms. Black is active as a percussionist in the Albuquerque area. Way back in 1978 she marched with the Guardsmen, including at DCI Finals in Denver.  After many years of being just a drum corps fan, she was elected to the Drum Corps International Board of Directors in January 2016 and served on that board until January 2022, including three years as chair. 

Kathy Black


Bryant’s path to the Ascend Board of Directors, which began in 2021 as a member-at-large, traces back to his childhood. Watching the Reading Buccaneers senior drum corps practice near his grandparents’ home ignited a lifelong passion, and a student of all thing’s percussion.

Years later a family move to Colorado provided Bryant with a platform to display his passion, both on the stage with the nationally acclaimed Green Earth Percussion Ensemble and on the field as a snare drummer with the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps until his age-out year in 1984.

In his professional career as the Senior Director of Strategic Accounts at Yokohama Tire Co., Bryant credits the principles instilled by the marching arts and years on tour for his success. On a personal level, the arts played an even larger role, where Bryant met his wife, Stephanie. The Rankin’s currently make their home in South Carolina, enjoying time with their grown children, two incredible grandchildren, and their beloved brown lab, Zoey.
Bryant Rankin


Retired, Director, Office of Research and Analysis, Colorado Department of Revenue Ms. Archibeque served 26 years in the area of statistical analysis for the Colorado Department of Revenue and Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. Her skills in this area assist the board in developing a strategy for statistical analysis in the area of program evaluation. She has also been a significant volunteer managing and working with volunteers for the organization and will assist the board in understanding the complex nature of the organization. Her personal experiences as a minority and female can inform and promote a more inclusive environment and agenda for the projects that the board supports.

Janet Archibeque


Rob Batchelder was appointed to the Ascend Performing Arts Board of Directors in May 2023, and currently serves as Vice Chair. As a member of the Senior Foreign Service, Rob has represented the United States overseas in India, Poland, Germany, Argentina, Nicaragua, Jamaica, and Namibia during a diplomatic career spanning nearly 30 years. He currently serves as Managing Director for Visa Services in the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs in Washington, DC. Rob marched in the Blue Knights hornline in 1987 and 1988, and he was Drum Major in 1989. He and his family live in Alexandria, Virginia, but his heart still yearns for Colorado.

Rob Batchelder