Alumni Spotlight: Sarah Connelly

Sarah Connelly

What year(s) did you march in the Blue Knights?
Blue Knights Winter Brass 2007
Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps 2008-2010

What section?

Where did you attend high school?
Cherry Creek High School

Education beyond high school?
Bachelor’s of Music Education at the University of Colorado, Boulder

What is your current occupation?
Music Teacher at Doshisha Elementary in Kyoto, Japan.

Why did you choose to march with the Blue Knights?
I saw finals in 2004, which was my first year in high school marching band and was completely hooked. I saw Opus X and the Blue Knights Winter Brass when I participated in Winterguard that same year and thought I had never seen something as cool as that.

What is your favorite drum corps memory?
My favorite drum corps memory was my rookie year in 2008. We hadn’t had a laundry day in a long time and finally, in Murfreesboro Tennessee, we had laundry the night before the show. The next morning it was pouring rain, but the Murfreesboro show was only for Top 8 Corps, so we had to rehearse, despite the inclement weather. Our show was about rain that year and there was quite a lot of dancing and rolling around on the floor during the ballad. It was such a ridiculous situation that many members ended up putting mud on their faces like war paint and just leaning into how ironic it was that we had finally gotten to wash our clothes, only to have to throw some out because they had gotten so dirty, they were beyond saving.

How have the Blue Knights impacted your life?
Without Blue Knights I’m not sure where I would be, but I know I’m where I am because I chose to face my fears and audition. I became a teacher myself and helped Oregon Crusaders win the Open Class Championship in 2012, as well as break into the World Class scene in 2013. I was also able to march in the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Parade for President Obama. In 2015 I was given the opportunity to come out of retirement and tour Europe with Blue Devils International as well. The opportunities my first corps afforded me have brought me a lot of joy and fond memories.

Most of all, Blue Knights taught me to identify what I wanted in life and then to go out, work hard, and make it happen. Without Blue Knights, without the unique experiences it gave me of constantly being placed in unfamiliar situations and being required to adapt and react, without the familiarity with travel and constantly meeting new people, I don’t think I could have ever moved to Japan by myself. I didn’t speak the language and I knew no one. When people tell me that I was brave to do such a thing, I just think how my drum corps experiences trained me to be brave and also how grateful I am for that each and every day.

What are some the Blue Knights’ core values/principles that have resonated with you in life?
Whenever I have hardship in my life, I recall the Blue Knights corps song “I go on.” No matter what is going on in my life, I focus on just putting one foot in front of the other. There is nothing I cannot face, in part because when I struggle I remember I will go on to celebrate another day.

What advice would you tell someone considering trying out for the Blue Knights?
Be the best in whatever you do. Don’t wait to be prepared. Work harder than the 3-year vet standing next to you, the staff and your peers will notice. Those are the types of students I enjoy teaching most, those who fearlessly pursue music and art with precision and excellence. Do this but check your ego at the door. Be open to criticism, love it because it will make you better. At the end of the day, we’re all just a bunch of band nerds! (Advice I got from my favorite mellophone tech in my time at BK!)

How would you like to see other Blue Knight alumni get involved in the organization?
Do what you can, when you can. We all grow up and move away, but if you’re around, go volunteer at a camp. If you’re not around, find some other way to be involved, even if it’s just hosting a DCI Finals watch party at 2am half-way across the world!

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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