Alumni Spotlight: Ryan Kehn

Blue Knights Alum, Ryan Kehn, recently had the challenge of being in the director’s chair for the production of Super Bowl 51!!


We took a few moments with this remarkable alumni to ask him some questions:

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

2002, 2004, 2005

What section?

Soprano, Trumpet, and aged-out as a Drum Major.

Where did you attend high school?

Monarch High School in Louisville, CO (Go Coyotes!).

Education beyond high school?

Graduated with a Bachelor’s in Music and a concentration in Computer-Mediated Communication from Colorado State University in 2008.

What is your current occupation?

Currently the Creative Director for VWSE Productions, a live-sports event production company.

Why did you choose to march with the Blue Knights?

I chose to audition for the Blue Knights because they were the home team (I’m a Colorado native). Truth be told, I didn’t know much about drum corps when I auditioned other than what I saw in one PBS broadcast of Finals in 2000 and circling up to watch a few Finals tapes (yes…VHS) in the band room. My band director marched with the Blue Devils in ’76 and was a big drum corps proponent, so when a few of us showed interest, he encouraged us to audition.

What is your favorite drum corps memory?

My favorite drum corps memory probably sounds a bit cliché, but our rehearsal on finals day of my age-out year is unforgettable. For three years, the goal always was to “peak” at the right time, always get better and do your best to beat Mark Arnold’s famed learning curve. Finals day of ’05 we peaked. There was a strange calm over everyone that morning, a calm that almost felt like a lack of energy or focus, but I honestly think everyone was just relaxed. As the drum major, it made me really nervous as we walked to the rehearsal field down the street. Today was not the day to let our guard down!!! From the moment we took the field, it was clear that I had nothing to worry about. The hornline played as if possessed…every lick was tight and I don’t know where they found the extra 10db that day, but it put a nice coat of mustard on the big moment. When we ran the impact moment at page 83 in the closer, it blew my hair back on the podium, chills ran down my spine and I was overcome with emotion. I remember Matt Taylor coming to the base of the podium, trying to contain a huge grin, and saying “no matter what happens tonight, especially if it’s something like that, you’ve gotta stay in control”. He smiled and walked away clapping.

How have the Blue Knights impacted your life?

The Blue Knights are, unequivocally, the reason why I am where I am today. I grew so much as a member of the corps and was constantly pushed to grow. After I aged out, I was left with a huge void and wasn’t sure how to fill it. I struggled with depression that year and was frustrated in school pursuing a degree that I didn’t want as a career, but didn’t know what else to do. I had tried to stay involved with the corps but was overwhelmed with my struggles in school and sort of fell off the map. One day, out of the blue, I got a call from Rosalie. She was simply calling to check-in, was worried that they hadn’t heard from me, and told me I should come to the next camp. So I did.

That visit changed the course of my life. Mark and I talked and he mentioned that he was looking for someone to go on the road that summer and create video content for the web. I had just completed an education technology course and had gotten my fingers wet with Windows Movie Maker (big-time production chops right there) and had enjoyed it, so I tricked Mark into thinking that I could handle the role, and he signed me up to go back on tour. Long story short…that led to tricking Mark (again) into thinking that I could build some graphics for the Video Board at Mile High Stadium for Drums Along the Rockies last year, which led to an internship with the Broncos, and eventually a full-time position with them, and now I get to be a part of some of the largest sporting events in the world!!

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

I poked fun earlier, but Mark’s “Learning Curve” talk has always stuck with me. Remembering to keep your foot on the gas pedal even when it feels like you’re not going anywhere is probably the one lesson that engrained itself more than anything.

You’ve recently had the challenge of being in the director’s chair for the production of Super Bowl 51 — tell us how you came about this unique and exciting opportunity!

The company I work for specializes in producing live shows for in-venue video displays (Jumbotrons) for sporting events around the world and one of our marquis gigs for the past 30 years has been the Super Bowl. Think of it this way, when you go to a game, everything on the big screens is us. It’s just like a TV show, without as many talking heads.

My first Super Bowl with the company was XLVIII (48) in New York…for those Broncos fans reading, that’s all we’ll say about that…I’ve been a part of the Super Bowl/NFL team for the past 4 years, producing events for everything from kickoff concerts, to games in London, the Hall of Fame and of course the big one in February. Our team restructured a bit this past year and I was honored to be given the privilege of playing the role of director for the first time at that event. It’s an enormous responsibility and honor and so far I haven’t been told to take a hike, so I guess it went alright…other than the Patriot’s winning! Sorry, couldn’t do anything about that!

What about the Blue Knights prepared you for this moment of directing/producing an event — where so many people were watching and the pressure was quite intense?

I can’t think of many things better to prepare someone for a role like this other than Drum Corps. In many respects, it’s no different from stepping onto the field in front of 20,000 people, all eyes on you. It comes down to sticking to what you know. Prepare diligently.  Know your show. March/Call your show. Follow the charts/script and do what you know how to do. Don’t be a hero…heroes miss the release.

The night before a big show, I sit in my hotel room and with my script, make my notes and run through it in my head, chunk-by-chunk. If I can’t give my cues to myself in the mirror, I don’t feel confident giving them through a headset when the lights go on and everyone’s paying attention.

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

Do it, and put your whole heart into it. This activity gives back to you what you put into. My rookie year I was a shy, stubborn introvert who was afraid of change and just wanted to go home and be with his girlfriend, and undoubtedly I missed out on a lot of the experience. It wasn’t until taking a year off that I realized how much I enjoyed most of it actually, but I let the struggles define my experience, and retreated into a shell.

Drum Corps will push you, bend you, sometimes may even break you, but if you keep your head up and fight back when it gets tough, rely on the team/friends/family around you and approach it with the mentality that you’re going win that day, then you will, and you’ll walk away with an experience that’s impossible to replicate anywhere else.


∴ 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