Alumni Spotlight: Cliff Pfeifer

What year(s) did you march in the Blue Knights?
Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps (Front Ensemble): 1994
Blue Knights Percussion Ensemble (Tenors): 1994, 1995, 1996, and 1998

Where did you attend high school?
Arvada High School

Education beyond high school?
Bachelor of Arts in Music with Psychology Minor at University of Northern Colorado 1999.

What is your current occupation?
Business Owner at NetSense Media. We do website development and design, digital media
production, internet marketing and consulting.

Why did you choose to march with the Blue Knights?
I was a drummer kid who was really into marching band. One day at high school band practice, one of our instructors brought in a DCI finals video and I had never seen anything like that before. I was blown away by the musicianship, skill and precision. Watching the show concepts come to life and seeing the emotions on the performers faces was life changing. It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen and I remember thinking “I need to do this”, after that I was on a mission. It took a few years of trying to make it happen but I kept working at until I got the opportunity.

What is your favorite Blue Knights memory?
There are so many to choose from. I was on the 1994 Blue Knights Percussion Ensemble (Independent World) drum line, where we ended up being the very first WGI Indoor Percussion World Champions. Indoor percussion was a whole new thing and all the trips to Dayton back then were exciting and fun. The Blue Knights, the Rocky Mountain Percussion Association (RMPA) and so many great Colorado high school programs pioneered the activity in so many ways and I’m incredibly honored to be part of that history.

Of course, 1994 was also the first Trittico year and the music has since become a Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps classic. If I had to pick one memory from the drum corps, it would be finals night 1994 at Foxboro Stadium. The pit was huddled up waiting to push our gear onto the field and coming to terms with the reality that it was last time we’d ever get to play this music together. In that moment, I realized how much we had gone through together, good times and tough times, and how awesome we had become as a result of it all. I knew I would miss them and I would miss playing the beautiful music we worked so hard to perfect together. I love all of those people and there will always be a special place in my heart for them.

It was such a bittersweet moment, I was choking back tears all the way until the end of the
show. In fact, if you watch the official 1994 vid all the way to end, I got the final close up and you can see me trying very hard not to cry. I’ve been made fun of endlessly for that shot, I do look kind of funny but there are no words to describe what I was feeling at that moment. We left it all out there that night and I’ll never forget the electricity and emotions that went through me.

I’ve performed thousands of times since then and I’ve never experienced else anything like that. It was the show of a lifetime and the friendships, memories and experiences have lasted a lifetime as well.

How have the Blue Knights impacted your life?

Blue Knights had such a huge impact on my life it’s difficult to imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t been a part of it. I didn’t truly grasp how valuable the experience was until I was older, but in hindsight Blue Knights really laid the groundwork for my future.

The work ethic and discipline which was ingrained into me during those years opened a lot of doors and paved the way for so many amazing experiences and successes in my life. You never know where life will take you next but the lessons I learned in Blue Knights have served me well – and still do to this very day. It’s truly a gift that keeps on giving.

What are some the Blue Knights’ core values/principles that have resonated with you in life?

A commitment to excellence and constantly striving towards improvement through dedication and persistence are cornerstone values in my life and my business. Responsibility and teamwork are also huge for me. In the Blue Knights the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts, and I believe that lesson is at the heart the organization. We’re all individuals with different talents and skills, and when we work together towards a common goal the results can be life changing. Everyone does their part to contribute to the success of the team, and it all matters because we’re all in the same boat at the end of the day. This type of experience is incredibly valuable in a workplace setting.

A classic Blue Knights lesson which had a very profound impact on my life is “leave every place better than you found it.” The concept is so simple yet so powerful. It shows how a small contribution as an individual can make a big difference, and also how positive actions help to build a positive reputations and impressions. It’s also about taking responsibility, not only for ourselves but for the group as a whole. Later in life I discovered this lesson is the heart of leadership values.

Doing what needs to be done simply because it needs to be done regardless of circumstances or situations is often the difference between a leader and a follower. Once you get into the real world you might find these attitudes and values are not as common
as they are in the drum corps world. As the old saying goes, there isn’t much traffic in the extra mile, and I’ve found this to be true.

In Blue Knights it’s all about going the extra mile and pushing yourself as far as you can to be the best that you possibly can. This gives you an edge later in life. I’ve found it’s very easy to stand out in a positive way simply by putting a little extra effort into everything I do. It applies to my business, my hobbies and my personal relationships. By setting a positive example, we make the world a better place for other people. When it’s all said and done I’d like to leave this world a better place than I found it – which may be easier said than done but I’ll never stop trying 🙂

What advice would you tell someone considering trying out for the Blue Knights

Never give up. Work as hard as you can, do everything you can to succeed and have faith that your efforts will pay off regardless of the outcome. It took me three years of auditioning for the drum corps drum line before I got a spot in the pit – which wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for, but I embraced the opportunity.

I didn’t give up, I gave it everything I had to give and when it was all said and done it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. It gave me the depth as a musician that I needed to open the doors to college and everything that came after. Where we end up in life is not always where we’re trying to go, but we often end up exactly where we need to be. Regardless of how it turns out, any time you spend with the Blue Knights organization will be beneficial to you.

What are you looking forward to most about the 2018 Alumni Corps celebrating our programs’ 60th and 25th anniversaries?

I’m really looking forward to performing again. I figured my drum line days were over a long time ago and it’s something I’ve always missed. Not to mention we get to perform at our home stadium, which is an amazing opportunity and I’m very excited about it. I’m also looking forward to seeing a lot of old friends again, some of whom I haven’t seen in a very long time. I’m hoping to make some new friends as well, sharing Blue Knights stories and having a great time with all the people who made the Blue Knights what it is today. I hope this event becomes a new tradition within the Blue Knights organization.

How would you like to see other Blue Knight alumni get involved in the organization?

In any way they can. We all have our own lives and responsibilities to deal with these days, but we also have experiences and skills we’ve developed since which may be helpful to the organization. There are a lot of ways to get involved and there is always much to be done. I would encourage alumni to stay in the loop, or reach out to the organization. If you see something you can help with just help out however you can whenever you can. It all makes a difference.


∴ Want to be featured in a future Alumni Spotlight? Fill out the Alumni Update form here or email: Alumni@AscendPerformingArts.org

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Ken Adams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rob BATCHELDER