Alumni Spotlight: Nick Soden

What year(s) did you march in the Blue Knights?
I marched Blue Knights in 2014 and 2016
What section? 

Front Ensemble
Where did you attend high school?

Buffalo High School (Buffalo, Minnesota)

Education beyond high school?
 I got my BA in Spanish/Portuguese Translation and Interpretation from the University of Minnesota.
What is your current occupation?
 I am a brand ambassador for an event staffing agency in Los Angeles.
Why did you choose to march with the Blue Knights?
I chose to march Blue Knights because every time I saw them take the field, I felt like I was told a story, and that story was relatable to my own life and it tugged on my heartstrings every single time. The culture of Blue Knights seemed to be full of heart and that each and every member was a part of an uplifting community. I so badly wanted to be a part of that.
What is your favorite drum corps memory?
My favorite drum corps memory was my rookie year of Blue Knights in 2014 on finals day. We were doing our final rehearsal run-through of “That One Second.” This show was already an emotional overload, but I will never forget looking over at my friend during the closer who played vibraphone. He’d been a member for three years and was about to age out, and his mom was a long-standing volunteer in the corps. I watched as him and his mother locked eyes and began to cry—the pride for her son was so evident, the labor of love in her time volunteering and watching her son play his final notes was a bittersweet release, and that beautiful moment will be etched in my memory forever. To me, that was their “one second.”
How have the Blue Knights impacted your life?
. Blue Knights have impacted my life in the most profound way, is that it has instilled in me values of integrity, tolerance, adaptability to adversity, and most importantly, love. Whenever I encounter difficult moments, the grit and perseverance I learned in BK were what assured me that I CAN do hard things, and I can be resilient in the face of the seemingly impossible. In addition to this, Blue Knights have given me a home, a family of people whose love is unconditional and everlasting. It’s taught me to be welcoming, accepting, and to always keep each other in the best interest. In summary, Blue Knights have undoubtedly changed my life for the better, and I want others to experience the same
What are some of the Blue Knights’ core values/principles that have resonated with you in life?

The saying “I Go On” has resonated with me very deeply. Knowing that no matter what life throws at you, you will always go on and better days are ahead. This mantra has propelled me through some of life’s most intense challenges. Cherishing the present moment has also been a principle I live by—I remember my section leader always saying “each day feels like it lasts forever, but the summer goes by in a blink of an eye.” Not only does this hold true to the daily grind of drum corps, but it serves as an important reminder to appreciate life’s highs and lows, to be present and seize every moment.

What advice would you tell someone considering trying out for the Blue Knights?
 I would recommend watching previous shows and talking with other alumni to get a feel for the culture and how the corps operates. Blue Knights have a contagious vibe, and once you catch it, it will forever be a part of you. Also, of course, make sure to thoroughly read the audition packet and practice each exercise at a variety of tempos (also faster than noted) to ensure you’re the most prepared for any curveballs or faster tempos at auditions!

How would you like to see other Blue Knight alumni get involved in the
 Especially during these times, I think spreading the word via social media in regards to donating, speaking with other alumni, and keeping the corps culture alive is extremely important. Reaching out to the organization with positive intent goes a long way, and will help preserve a bright future for the Blue Knights down the road.


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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