Alumni Spotlight: Kerri Bilben

Kerri Bilben

What year(s) did you march in the Blue Knights?
1994 Tittico

What section?

Where did you attend high school?
Bayfield, WI

Education beyond high school?
Bachelor of Science in Music Education

What is your current occupation?
K-12 Band Director/Music Teacher

Why did you choose to march with the Blue Knights?
My friend at college (Jason Koets) had marched with Blue Knights and wanted to march his age out year. I grew up with Drum Corps International (DCI) as my parents used to be part of the Cavaliers Booster Club. We would watch the finals every year at Thanksgiving on PBS.

What is your favorite drum corps memory?
At the time it would be the performance at Camp Randall in Madison because my parents finally got to see one of their children march in DCI. But looking back I would have to say every moment; the good, the bad, all of it. I only marched the one year and I am so thankful I did. I was in college at the time and could only afford one luxury: spring break or Blue Knights. I most definitely chose correctly!

How has the Blue Knights impacted your life?
Being a band director I have used so much of what I learned in Blue Knights in my classroom. Doesn’t matter if it was when my band in Las Vegas was getting ready to perform in Bands of America or the advice I give my 6th grade about teamwork.

What are some the Blue Knights’ core values/principles that have resonated with you in life?
What I took away from my summer with Blue Knights was no matter how hard something is, don’t give up. There were times mid-season when I was tired, sick, homesick, and I just wanted to go home. My friend, Jason, told me if I did I would regret it. I think at all the things I do now and realize that I am learning something from them: lessons or blessings. Blue Knights was both a blessing and so many lessons. I still keep in contact with a handful of friends I made in Blue Knights, but even more than that I will always have a special place in my heart for Blue Knights and everything it taught me.

What advice would you tell someone considering trying out for the Blue Knights?
I had a student audition for Blue Knights one year. I cheered him on so much, but it wasn’t what his heart wanted to do. If my own children (all 3 are brass players) or another student wanted to audition for Blue Knights, or any drum corps I would support them in any way I could. Even if they didn’t make the drum corps, the experience from trying out is amazing. Too many people think about trying out for sports teams, when I got so much more (positive) out of being in Blue Knights then I ever have from sports. I think that’s because there’s no bench warmers in drum corps. Everyone matters. Everyone is important. You just don’t get that in sports today, and that’s pretty sad.

What are you looking forward to most about the 2018 Alumni Corps celebrating our programs’ 60th and 25th anniversaries?
I’m looking forward to performing with the Blue Knights again. Minnesota has Minnesota Brass, but I’m Blue Knights through and through. Once a Blue Knight, always Blue Knight.
How would you like to see other Blue Knight alumni get involved in the organization?
I think alumni should be more involved in the camps, but also anywhere the Blue Knights is represented, from marching band shows to working the souvie trailer. Even showing up to shows wearing Blue Knights gear is great for alumni. Not too much for the Minnesota alumni to do, but I am willing to help in any way I can.

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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