Ascend Visits Music Conferences in Texas, Colorado and Utah


DENVER, CO- Ascend Performing Arts recently attended three state music conferences, having a booth and an appearance at Colorado Music Educators Association, Texas Music Educators Association and Utah Music Educators Association.

Ascend Performing Arts held a promotional booth in the exhibit hall of the three different conferences, and reached out to hundreds of students and educators, speaking about the “4 E’s” of Ascend Performing Arts, the success of the Blue Knights Drum Corps, as well as speaking about upcoming Spark! Ideas Conference and BKXperience Clinics.

Colorado Music Educators Association (CMEA)

At the Colorado Music Educators Association (CMEA) conference, Director of Operations GM Kuzma recorded a video in front of the Ascend Performing Arts Booth and spoke about the Four E’s of Ascend.

The first “E” stands for “Ensembles” that Ascend runs, which include the Blue Knights Drum and Bugle Corps, and the Blue Knights Percussion Ensemble.

The second “E” stands for ” Events”, referencing the major events that are led by Ascend, Drums Along the Rockies, Corps Encore and the Friendship Cup Marching Competition.

The third “E” stands for “Entertainment”, including the Broncos Brass and Stampede drumline which performs at Denver Broncos games, and specialty Blue Knights groups, such as the ensemble performing in Bahrain this April for Formula One, last year’s show in Vail, Colorado and a previous trip to Taiwan.

The last “E” stands for “Education”, a leading influence in Ascend’s appearances at these conferences. Ascend stands for education through Spark! An Ideas Conference for music educators who want to participate in professional development, as well as BKXperience Camps, for middle school, high school and college students to experience a day in the life of drum corps. Both of these events will be available at Drums Along the Rockies this coming summer on July 15 and at Corps Encore on July 12.

While at CMEA, Blue Knights alumni Rebecca Coffee was named “Outstanding Student Teacher” for her work student teaching in Colorado. Rebecca recently graduated from the University of Northern Colorado and completed her student teaching underneath the guidance of Orlando Otis at Legend High School.

Utah Music Educators Association (UMEA)

Ascend Performing Arts Executive Director Mark Arnold and John Ryszka made an appearance at the Utah Music Educators Association last month, where Mark presented the return of Spark! An Ideas Conference and spoke about BKX-Perform! being moved to Utah for the first time.

Mark also talked about the Corps Encore drum corps show on July 12 and the stellar line-up scheduled to appear at Weber State University this summer.

John Ryszka is Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps Alum 1998, 1999, & 2001,  and is now Director of Wasatch High School Bands at Wasatch High School.

Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA)

TMEA was the largest of the three conferences and an estimated 25 thousand attendees strolled through the exhibition hall where the Blue Knights booth was held!

Blue Knights Alumni Alex Factor led a call out for BK alumni for a group picture  at TMEA and to talk about the 2018 Alumni Corps! Blue Knights alumni ranged from recent age outs and members to those from the early 90’s!

Alex and Ken Adams also helped to promote the “Buy A Dot” campaign and continued to build the Blue Knights Alumni network.

“Going to TMEA earlier this month was not only a great experience for me personally as a musician, but as the Alumni Coordinator for Ascend,” said Alex. “It was great to reconnect with alumni who were still connected with the organization as well as meeting alumni who weren’t currently in our network.”


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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