Ascend Performing Arts Participates in 2023 Colfax Marathon Relay

Ascend Performing Arts Marathon Team

DENVER, CO – Ascend Performing Arts participated in the 2023 Colfax Marathon Relay along with nearly 200 other Colorado nonprofits.

This year’s “Team Ascend” was made up of Daniel Belcher, Keenan Evans, GM Kuzma, Jordan Kuzma, and Chase Llamzon. The relay team divided the 26.2 mile marathon into five increments of varying length, running around downtown Denver.

This was the first time the Ascend team was made up of both Blue Knights Alumni and current Staff members. Daniel Belcher was a member of the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps from 2016-2019 and has been on staff since 2020. He is currently serving as the Executive Director of the drum corps. Keenan Evans was a member of the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps from 2010-2012 and Blue Knights Percussion Ensemble in 2013 and 2014. He’s been on staff for the drum corps since 2013 and with the percussion ensemble since 2015 in various administrative positions. He is currently serving as the Executive Director of the percussion ensemble. GM Kuzma was a member of the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps in 1994 and has been a volunteer staff since. He formally joined the Ascend Performing Arts staff in 2014 and is currently serving as the Chief Operating Officer. Jordan Kuzma was a member of the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps from 1997-2000 and was an instructor in 2001.  She has worked on the Ascend Performing Arts staff since 2014 in various roles but most recently as the Director of Marketing & Merchandising. Chase Llamzon was a member of the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps in 2021 and the Blue Knights Percussion Ensemble in 2017, 2019-2022. He has been on staff for the drum corps from 2022-2023 and percussion ensemble in 2023. In addition, Jillian Oppegard provided logistics and transportation support for Team Ascend this year. She was a member of the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps in 2000, 2001, and 2003.  She was on Ascend Performing Arts staff in 2016 and 2017.  She is currently serving as the Director of Strategic Communications for Ascend Performing Arts.

“Ascend’s continued involvement year-after-year in the Colfax Marathon has turned out to be a successful partnership with other community charities beyond the performing arts,” said GM Kuzma, Ascend’s Team Captain. “It has also provided our Blue Knights members, alumni, and staff the opportunity to elevate their life performance through fitness.”

Over 200 charity partners participated in the 2023 edition of this historic marathon race events, many of which could be found among the bright, blue-peaked tents of Charity Partner Village in Denver’s City Park on the days of the races.  The Village was crowded with the excitement of around 20,000 runners, friends, and families, and served as excellent exposure for the non-profit partners. Ascend Performing Arts has been recognized by organizers as a frequent participant in the Colfax Marathon Relay, as a local organization with a global impact. Ascend’s teams promoted its four mission areas revolving around ensembles, education clinics, events, and entertainment. They also connected with other Blue Knights alumni and runners who ran one of several distances such as the 5K, 10 Miler, Half Marathon, Full Marathon and the Marathon Relay. Ascend also promoted one of its premier events of the summer: Drums Along the Rockies.

One of the most cherished things about the Colfax Marathon is that it’s all for charity, and they do their best to raise as much awareness about their partners as possible.

Ascend CEO, Mark Arnold, highlighted the mission of Ascend and how it furthers the mission to “Elevate Life Performance” on and off the field:

“We create a stage in which young people pursue excellence through music, through our performing ensembles (Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps, Blue Knights Percussion Ensemble, and Blue Knights Winds), which provides our 200+ performers with a vehicle to showcase their excellence to thousands of people worldwide. On top of that, Ascend provides a stage for these performers as well, through hosting of events like Drums Along the Rockies and Corps Encore during the summer, and Friendship Cup scholastic marching band shows in the Fall. Ascend also stresses the importance of music education, and thus hosts multiple BKXperience clinics year-round that reach thousands of students,” said Arnold.

The Ascend Team finished in 4 hours and 20 minutes, placing in 9th place out of 23 teams in the Corporate Nonprofit division. Although the team did not podium this year, Ascend has had two top-3 finishes previously. Ascend placed 2nd in 2022 and 3rd in 2015 running the Colfax Marathon Relay. At the end of it all, it was an invaluable experience for Ascend Performing Arts to embody the connection between fitness and the performing arts.

Want to Run for Ascend in 2024? Let us know! Email us at info@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