Alumni Spotlight: GM Kuzma

What years did you march in the Blue Knights?

I marched Blue Knights in 1994.

What section?

Mellophone. 

Where did you attend high school?

Boca Raton Community High School, Boca Raton, FL.

Education beyond high school?

  • Bachelors of Arts in Communications from the University of Central Florida (1998).
  • Bachelors of Science in Business/Management Information Systems from the University of Phoenix (2003).
  • Masters of Arts in Military Operational Art & Science from Air University (2011).
  • Joint & Combined Warfare School from Joint Forces Staff College (2019).

What is your current occupation?

Director of Operations (COO) for Ascend Performing Arts since 2016.

I am also an Air Force Reservist currently assigned to Camp Smith in Oahu, Hawaii as the Future Plans Director for Headquarters, United States Indo-Pacific Command. 

Why did you choose to march with the Blue Knights?

My friend, Dave Bayardelle convinced me to try out late in the spring of 1994. He marched lead baritone with Star of Indiana in 1993 and since Star was not returning to Drum Corps International competition in 1994, he went to Blue Knights because he really felt like it was home.

So, I recorded myself playing Trittico on mellophone and mailed the cassette tape off to Mark Arnold and received a contract. Dave and I booked our flight and went to All Days training at Stapleton Airport in Denver. And the rest, as they, is history.

What is your favorite drum corps memory?

While there were many drum corps memories from the 1994 season with the Blue Knights, I could highlight Day 47 that was drawn into a cartoon by my UCF college friend Tony Leps for the “On the field from Denver, Colorado…The Blue Knights!” book.

I had originally planned to insert this silly cartoon into the book but it never made the final cut. 

So, that day I was driving our host family’s Volkswagen yellow “micro bus” to practice. Along for the ride was Dave Bayardelle in the front seat (the guy who convinced me to march), baritone player Randy in the middle seat, and two girls from Taiwan that played in the front ensemble (who didn’t speak a word of English) were sitting in the back seat.

We were running late, so I dared Dave I could beat the train on the way to Stapleton Airport so we would make it to rehearsal on time. Being late meant we would have had to run laps and since we’ve been late due to the train before, we didn’t want to be late again.

We actually had plenty of space with the train and we cleared it safely and made it to practice no problem. However, I may have embellished the way we beat the train slightly when I was telling my friend Tony about it.

I would like to point out that what I did may have been a little reckless and not representative of the Blue Knights while trying to get through railroad crossing before the gates came down and the train passed. But the situation made for a funny story later.

How have the Blue Knights impacted your life?

I have spent over 25 years in the performing arts activity because of my experience with the Blue Knights.

My time as a performer consisted of high school Boca Raton “Pride of the Gold Coast” marching band, the University of Central Florida “Marching Knights” college marching band as well as a performer with Blue Knights and Madison Scouts in Drum Corps International (DCI) and with Heat Wave in Drum Corps Associates (DCA). I have been active with the Blue Knights serving in various roles as a van driver and cook for several years and was the tour director in 2007.

I moved to Denver to dedicate more of my time to help the organization by taking on the role of Director of Communications in 2014 and served in that position until 2019. I met my wife, Jordan through the Blue Knights organization and we have 3 wonderful children (who will hopefully be Blue Knights themselves someday…).

I have also been a marching band clinician and visual judge with the Central States Judges Association. I’ve contributed to various publications as a features writer for publications such as Halftime Magazine and Drum Corps Planet writing stories about drum corps and marching band.

In 2004, I published a memoir about my experience as a member of the Blue Knights called On the field, from Denver, Colorado…The Blue Knights!” where 100% of the book’s sales go toward supporting today’s Blue Knights members.

Buying a book here is one way you can help future performers get the Blue Knights experience.

In my current role as Director of Operations with Ascend Performing Arts, I also manage our BKXperience-Perform! Clinics during the summer and oversee our Events such as Drums Along the Rockies and Friendship Cup shows and Entertainment groups such as the Denver Broncos Stampede Drum Line & Brass.

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

My experience with the Blue Knights have had a positive impact on my 21 years in the Air Force Reserve as a Logistics Officer with multiple deployments to the Middle East and East Africa.

The values of hard work and dedication were a natural fit for my military career. The Blue Knights have been central to our family’s values of “Family First, Find Your Path, and Have Fun” as we continue to cheer on today’s Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps, Blue Knights Percussion Ensemble, and Blue Knights Winds groups.

I am proud to call the Blue Knights my home since 1994 and look forward to helping this organization continue to “elevate life performance” for thousands more young people through our 4 mission areas of Education, Ensembles, Events, and Entertainment for another 25 years.

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

The level of excellence the Blue Knights has achieved through the decades has been nothing short of amazing. I would encourage anyone interested in becoming a part of the Blue Knights family to give it a try. We have amazing educators and dedicated volunteers who give so much to make this a fantastic place to call home.

The BKXperience-Audition! Clinics (visit BKXperience.org) provide an opportunity of a low-threat environment where prospective members don’t have to audition for a Blue Knights ensemble if they don’t want to. You can still get the experience and feedback if you attend. It really is a win-win situation!

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

There are over 4,000 Blue Knights alumni out there doing amazing things!

I would love to see Blue Knights alumni get involved in any way they feel comfortable with. Blue Knights alumni can give their time by volunteering, offer their talent by contributing a skill to improve the Blue Knights, or simply make a charitable donation to help the Blue Knights provide the best experience possible.


∴ 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