Alumni Lead Blue Knights Winds in their inaugural season

DENVER, CO – This February, the Blue Knights Winds ensemble will be taking the floor in competition for the very first time. In this alumni spotlight, we are looking at a number of the Blue Knights alumni making it happen. In addition to the alumni highlighted here, Blue Knights Winds would like to also acknowledge the contributions of the following alumni: Luke Story, Becky Paschke, Andy Smart and Ethan Goddard.

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Abraham Eng (BKDBC ’99-’03) Ensemble Director

What motivated you to get involved with the BK Winds inaugural season?

The Blue Knights are a big part of the music and marching ecosystem here in the Denver area and since the Drum Corps starting recruiting more out of state (which has been great for the corps) that ecosystem has broken down a bit. The Winds ensemble is a great way to re-establish the Blue Knights role as a way to generate and refine performance skills here in the area.

How do you think being an alumni informs your role with BK Winds?

My time with the Blue Knights is when I learned how to push my limits and where I expanded my skills as a performer far beyond what I ever would have been asked to do in any other ensemble. It is my goal for this ensemble to provide the same experience to these performers. On top of that, the design and educational approach I was taught (and later taught myself) is one that is currently unrepresented in the Winds world and a great opportunity to distinguish ourselves from our competitors.

Jeff Desmarteau (BKDBC ’99, ’01-’03) Visual Caption Head

What motivated you to get involved with the BK Winds inaugural season?

WGI winds offers a unique opportunity for brass and woodwind players to participate in the pageantry arts during the winter months without having to cross train to other instruments and disciplines and the Blue Knights are uniquely positioned to field an ensemble that will be successful and innovative in this new activity.

I was fortunate to be involved with the now disbanded Blue Knights Winter Brass Ensemble during the mid 2000s. At the time, we were experimenting with an ensemble that could be used as a recruiting and training group for local members in the drum corps. It was a wonderfully creative outlet for us, and I do believe the ensemble helped contribute to the successes of the 2006 and 2007 horn lines. In many ways that group was the precursor for what we are trying to do with Blue Knights Winds now.

How do you think being an alumni informs your role with BK Winds?

My involvement with the Blue Knights as member, and later as an instructor for the corps, has informed so much of how I approach being an instructor for the winds group, as well as my current profession as a college professor. I have been lucky to have had wonderful teaching role models and mentors through my time with BK, and I have made life-long friendships. Director Abe Eng, and Visual Designer Robbie Billings are certainly two individuals that I would put at the very top of that list. I think that having alumni involved with the winds group will help us to establish an identity as a group and a connection to our parent organization that is consistent with the values of what it means to be a Blue Knight.

Thomas Kober (BKDBC ’09-’12) Music Caption Head

What motivated you to get involved with the BK Winds inaugural season?

When I first heard that BK winds was starting up, my good friend Andy Smart and I had a discussion about getting the ball rolling. After speaking with Abe, I was very excited to get on board with the organization and “come home” to the Blue Knights. Teaching within this organization has been such a privilege, especially being part of an organization that has given so much to me.

How do you think being an alumni informs your role with BK Winds?

Being an alumni of the drum corps has definitely guided some of the decisions and methods I’ve taken while working with the winds ensemble. It is all of our highest priority that we provide a successful, educational, and beneficial environment for all of our new members. We definitely want to pass on what it means to be a Blue Knight.

Joe Hills (BKDBC ’03-’08, BKPE ’02-’06, ’10) Music Instructor

What motivated you to get involved with the BK Winds inaugural season?

I have been involved with WGI as a percussion performer and instructor for over a decade.  I’ve watched the WGI Winds category grow over the past few years so when BKWinds was announced, I couldn’t wait to get involved.

How do you think being an alumni informs your role with BK Winds?

As a BK alumnus, I find myself relying on my BK experience in both the corps and Percussion ensembles to inspire a new generation of performers to succeed in the marching arts.  My experience informs my instruction and helps me push BKWinds to new heights.

Dan Gustad (BKDBC ’05, BK-Bahrain) Music Instructor

What motivated you to get involved with the BK Winds inaugural season?

I have been working with high school groups for six years, but I wanted to find a way to get involved with a higher-level performing ensemble.  I had seen the BK Winter Brass ensemble that Abe and Jeff had put on in the mid 2000’s, and I knew they would have the same standards and attention to detail they had put into that.

How do you think being an alumni informs your role with BK Winds?

Having marched with the corps and then traveling with BK to Bahrain, I knew that the standards would be high for the group, and that the performers would take a professional approach to their show.   Also, having so many of the instructors that were instrumental in my own drum corps experience (Abe, Jeff, Robbie) working with this group made joining the team as an instructor a little like coming home.

Lane Allbee (BKDBC ’14-’18) Music & Visual Tech

What motivated you to get involved with the BK Winds inaugural season?

Having the chance to start giving back to an organization that has done so much for me was an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up. I also know first hand that getting a foot in the door with Blue Knights and the Ascend groups can open so many doors for young performers, and giving local musicians and performers a new experience in this arena is very exciting to me.

How do you think being an alumni informs your role with BK Winds?

I feel like I’ve gained a lot of knowledge from my years performing with the group, especially on the visual front. I’ve always enjoyed the unique styles of movement and the visual identity that the Blue Knights D&BC has etched out for themselves, and I look forwards to the opportunity to bring this unique visual look into a competitive area that hasn’t seen anything like it before.


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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