Ascend Continues Focus on Members & Workplace Safety

DENVER, CO – Ascend Performing Arts places member and staff workplace safety in high regard when it comes to any and all forms of abuse or harassment. In February, the Ascend Performing Arts Board of Directors directed a complete review of all harassment and discrimination policies that impact all 4 E’s that support Ascend’s mission areas: Education, Ensembles, Events, and Entertainment.

“Our number one priority as a responsible organization is to ensure the safety and well-being of our members, students, administrative, educational staff, and volunteers,” said Darrell Griffin, Board of Director Chairman for Ascend Performing Arts. “We have a responsibility to ensure everyone who works or volunteers for Ascend and the Blue Knights always has a safe and supportive environment.”

The review and update of our policies and procedures are aligned with best practices across all of our youth organizations. Specifically, Ascend Performing Arts strongly supports a zero-tolerance policy regarding harassing or other improper behavior by its executive team, staff and/or marching members.

“In order for our support system to be effective, we must take a comprehensive approach with staff training, outlining behavior policies in our member handbooks, staff handbooks and volunteer handbooks,” said Griffin. “Background checks, compliance, training, and a continuous internal dialogue are all necessary to elevate the importance of safety, to raise our individual awareness, and to always insist on the most stringent behavior requirements when interacting with young people in our organization.”

Ascend Performing Arts has updated or introduced a number of policies including our whistleblower policy, staff, volunteer, and member handbooks, background check policy, and training requirements to provide more support to everyone involved in the organization to include those who partake in our Blue Knights ensembles.

Our support efforts are summarized below.


Given its mission, Ascend Performing Arts has developed a code of ethics to guide its board members, administrative and teaching staff, as well as volunteers in their conduct when acting on behalf of Ascend Performing Arts. 
At Ascend Performing Arts we believe in honesty, integrity, transparency, confidentiality and equality. We strive for excellence in all that we do. The organization, founded in 1958, has a proud history of helping young people become responsible adults through the lessons learned and promoted in our music programs. To maintain this tradition of giving it is imperative that all those associated with the organization exhibit ethical conduct in all that we do. This policy is not intended as a stand-alone policy rather, it is one element of a broader effort to create a starting point for defining the ethical practices that will best serve the organization while going forward.


The Ascend and Blue Knights member handbooks, staff handbooks, and volunteer handbooks have been revised to ensure that the policies contained within maintain relevance with the current state of our environment. For this season, we have introduced additional updates to emphasize the importance of an individual’s duty to report any violations of our policies and procedures (regardless of their status or position in the organization). Any individuals who have a question about our policy are encouraged to reach out to the ensemble director and executive director.


Ascend Performing Arts and the Blue Knights require all instructional staff, administrative staff, and volunteers to undergo a background check. This policy has been strengthened to apply to all individuals who spend more than one day with any of our Blue Knights ensembles.


Organization-wide training for all members, staff, and volunteers is occurs throughout the year, that will be required for participation with Ascend Performing Arts and the Blue Knights ensembles. The first of the in-person training sessions will be held during move-ins day for the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps spring all days training.


Blue Knights alumni and family members are encouraged to join the drum corps’ annual Friends & Family Send Off Show in Denver, CO, to learn more about what the Blue Knights are doing to address these topics and how to support the effort.

For any questions or comments related to member or workplace safety, our policies, or our training, please contact executive director Mark at


In February 2018, Ascend Performing Arts formalized the whistleblower policy and reporting tool by making it available on the website, as reporting is an essential element when addressing our member and staff concerns and workplace safety.

While we aim for all those who come in contact with Ascend Performing Arts and the Blue Knights to feel unhindered and unthreatened in raising concerns, we recognize that it is essential to provide a confidential and anonymous option to submit such concerns to ensure we have the full opportunity to investigate and address any potential violations.


Since 1958, Ascend Performing Arts has become a multi-faceted, youth performing arts organization dedicated to elevating life performance through the pursuit of excellence.

Ascend Performing Arts is recognized as the Rocky Mountain region’s most visible performing arts organization. Programs such as the internationally acclaimed Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps, the 4-time Winter Guard International Champion Blue Knights Percussion Ensemble, and Blue Knights Winds play an important role in providing high-caliber performance ensembles for thousands of youth performers each year.

Ascend Performing Arts also produces the Broncos Stampede Drum Line and Broncos Brass to entertain tens of thousands of NFL fans at Denver Broncos home games every season.

Educational programs such as the BKXperience allows students of a variety of performance levels to learn from the best educators in the marching arts activity.

Ascend Events, such as the Drums Along the Rockies and Corps Encore drum corps shows and the Friendship Cup high school marching contests, provide a stage which showcases the world’s top young musicians at the highest level.


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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