Alumni Spotlight: Izaak Mendoza

Name: Izaak Mendoza

What year(s) did you march in the Blue Knights? 2008 – 2010

What section?

I was Drum Major alongside my partner, Blue Knights Executive Director Jordan Helwerda all three years! I also was percussion soloist my age-out year in 2010.

Where did you attend high school?

East High School in Cheyenne, WY.

Education beyond high school?

I went to the University of Wyoming for undergrad and received a B.A. in International Studies with minors in Anthropology, Religious Studies, and Spanish. I’m currently finishing up my last semester of graduate school, where I’m pursuing two master’s degrees — a Master of Public Policy (focused on U.S. Foreign & National Security Policy) and a Master of Business Administration (focused on Strategic Marketing and Management).

What is your current occupation?

While in grad school, I’ve been driving the marketing strategy of two departments here at my business school, though I’ve also been able to work at the Minnesota State Capitol and U.S. Department of State running strategic policy and media campaigns.

After graduation in May, I have a global brand management role lined up, and someday hope to achieve my goal of becoming a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service!

Why did you choose to march with the Blue Knights?

I had an intense personal drive to march drum corps and being from southern Wyoming, the Blue Knights were the closest corps to me. I fell in love with the corps identity as a whole, with a brass sound that was so warm and dark, the approach to the percussion philosophy, and the expressive nature in everything the corps did — from the painted flags to the heavy dance influence the corps was known for. I knew I was going to be surrounded by peers and instructors that would continuously make me better at the Blue Knights, and I truly found my home with them.

What is your favorite drum corps memory?

There’s really nothing like the feeling of conducting horn arc, though if I had to pick a single moment in my drum corps career, it would be conducting the Nimrod ballad on Quarterfinals night of my age-out year. It was the best show I’ve ever had!

How have the Blue Knights impacted your life?

Simply put, the Blue Knights have given me the tools I need to be successful at anything I pursue in my life. The corps taught me how to approach each day with grit and how to lead a passionate group of people towards a common goal. Not only have the Blue Knights given me critical life skills but they’ve given me numerous opportunities to lead and stay engaged and I am extremely grateful for that. They were key in sparking my journey of personal development and studying organizational leadership.

Some of the best life lessons have come from the teachings and mentorship of Blue Knights figures like Andy Smart, Jeff Ausdemore, Robbie Billings, Marc Sylvester, Abe Eng, Mark Arnold, GM Kuzma, and Ashley Drayer.

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

I’ve learned that real life is just an extension of drum corps. It’s still about having an awareness of your technique, fundamentals, and exaggerating the dynamics — whatever little things that make you and your work great. It’s still about consistency, getting reps into whatever you’re doing, making time for stretching, and breathing through the discomfort.

I’ve found that life can sometimes feel like a constant uphill battle….like a sun-filled rehearsal day somewhere in the middle of Kansas. But it’s there, in that struggle, that the best drum corps are made — and likewise, it’s your struggles that give you the opportunity to rise to the challenge and emerge successfully. My Blue Knights experience has challenged me to live each day in the pursuit of excellence by continually trying to raise my own personal standards. And even though we fall and fail at times, it’s about pushing through and getting up…..*prep* and starting again.

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

I would encourage them to think not only about the playing and performing aspect of auditions, but in how they approach the audition experience as a whole. Your attitude towards long lunch lines, no hot water in the showers, and getting stuck with random chores are a part of daily drum corps life when on tour. If you show a positive attitude and willingness to help off-the-field (alongside a growth mindset in the audition room), you’ll be setting yourself up best for success.

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

Alumni involvement is REALLY important — but it’s key to remember that it looks different for everyone. Some of us live close and can volunteer at camps, shows, or go on tour. But instead of dwelling on any barriers that may keep us from being involved (I can’t give financially to the scholarship fund right now, I live too far away, etc.), I hope we think creatively about how we can give back to an organization that has given us so much. The Blue Knights have trained us to be successful in life, and we each have unique ways to provide value that will make current members’ experiences more memorable. You work for a big food company? Try to get some free snacks donated for camps! Work as a mechanic? I’m sure our corps’ caravan could use a little TLC! Live far away and don’t know how to help? Grab some BK apparel and wear it around proudly — and I’m sure it’ll spark some conversations about the drum corps activity!

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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