Alumni Spotlight: Tracy Avila

Name: Tracy Avila

What year(s) did you march in the Blue Knights?
1988-1990 , 2018 Alumni Corps

What section?
1988 Cymbals
1989-1990 Front Ensemble
Where did you attend high school?
Arvada West HS
Education beyond high school?
Some college
What is your current occupation?
Valuation Coordinator in Real Estate
Why did you choose to march with the Blue Knights?
My friend Dan Roush convinced me and several other to check it out.  There were 6 or 7 of us that went to the first camp in the fall of 1987. There was 5 of us that marched the summer of 1988.  Dan’s father picked us up in Kansas City.  All our luggage tied to the top of his van and 6 teenagers stuffed inside.  Only missing 1 shoe by the time we got back to Denver.
What is your favorite drum corps memory?
So many.  Working with some of the most talented instructors in the industry. Ralph Hardimon, George Zingali and Gary Brattin. The I Go On moment in 1990.  Coming off the field feeling we had that amazing show and finding out we did not make finals.  I guess I did not know or realize at the time, going into semi’s we were in 12th.  I don’t know how I missed that.   My other memory is in St. Louis in 1989, looking up at the Jumbo-tron and seeing myself on the screen.

I participated in the Alumni Corps in 2018 and it was just like stepping back in time.  From the first rehearsal it was like I was 17 again.  I worked harder in those 3 1/2 days than I had in years.  One of my co-workers asked me how it was and if I would do it again. Said it was exhausting but would do it again in a heartbeat.

Seeing old friends and running into another that until we started talking didn’t know who he was.  30 years and people change a lot.  Coming together with stories and memories of the years we marched.  Performing at Mile HI gave me chills as we went onto the field.  Singing I Go On after the show with the group brought a flood of emotions.  My friend Shannon Wood was next to me and we started the tears at the same time.  Can’t wait for next time.

How have the Blue Knights impacted your life?
I met amazing people from all over the country.  With Facebook we have reconnected.  I love the fact we can keep in touch.
What are some of the Blue Knights’ core values/principles that have resonated with you in life?
I pay attention to details. It shows in my work that I see details in the documents I review. I’m dedicated.  I stayed at one job for over 20 years when I should have moved on way before.
What advice would you tell someone considering trying out for the Blue Knights?
Do it.  You will make friends forever. Life long memories.
How would you like to see other Blue Knight alumni get involved in the organization?
Volunteer and give.  I have been more involved the past few years and I feel wonderful telling stories from the past.  Explaining where I Go On came from and how it impacted the 1990 corp. Memories- 1990- We were in staying in LeRoy, NY for Finals in Buffalo. This little town was like something out of a 50’s TV show.  Tree lined streets and small shops.  A local reporter wanted to interview us.  They sent her to the Front Ensemble.  We talked and she took us for ice cream in her convertible. I wish we could of seen her finished article.One of my biggest regrets is not coming back in 1991 to make it in the top 12.  I might of not marched but I was there in the stands in Dallas and Madison in 1992, (which would have been my age out.)  I thought I had to move to adult life.

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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