Blue Knights Announce 2020 Visual Staff

DENVER, CO – Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps is excited to announce the Visual Staff for the 2020 season!

Zak Stillwell will return to the Blue Knights as Visual Caption Head for the 2020 season.

Zak Stillwell is a full-time visual designer, instructor, and clinician based out of Benicia, California. He began his pageantry career at the age of fourteen as a performer in the Academy Drum and Bugle Corps, before spending his final four years marching with the Blue Devils.

After aging out, Zak began teaching within the Blue Devil organization. While there, he spent time instructing the ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’ corps. Most notably, Zak’s work with the Blue Devils ‘B’ Corps helped elevate the corps from perennial Open Class contender to two Top 15 World Class finishes in 2014 and 2016. In all, Zak has helped earn seven DCI World Championships as an instructor and performer. In addition to his drum corps experience, Zak studied music education and euphonium performance at the University of Arizona, under the instruction of Dr. Kelly Thomas.

Zak has served as visual caption head for many award-winning high school ensembles.  Some of the groups he has had the pleasure of working with include James Logan High School, Homestead High School, Etiwanda High School, Amador Valley High School, Saratoga High School, and Leigh High School. As a drill designer, Zak has written for programs all over the United States. He currently designs for programs in California, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, and Texas.

James Gow will return to the Blue Knights as Visual Designer for the 2020 season.

James is a Southern California native who began his marching career at Vista Murrieta HS before joining Pacific Crest Drum and Bugle Corps (2005-2006) and later going on to march with the Blue Devils Drum & Bugle Corps (2007-2010).

As a drill designer, James has worked with Southwind Drum and Bugle Corps (2017-2018) and is the current visual designer for the Blue Knights (2018-present). He has served as drill designer for multiple high school programs around the country, including Green Hope, Warren, Etiwanda, Foothill, Temecula Valley, and Great Oak HS. James also designs visual programs for scholastic and independent winter drumlines and is currently a choreographer and visual instructor at Broken City Percussion.

As an instructor, James has taught highly competitive groups in the Southern California area including Vista Murrieta, Mission Viejo, Etiwanda, and Fountain Valley High Schools, and serves as the current visual caption head and choreographer for BOA semi-finalist Vista Murrieta HS. He has been a member of the visual staff for the Sacramento Mandarins (2011), The Cadets (2012), and the Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps (2013-2018).

Austin Greene will return to the Blue Knights as a Visual Instructor and Educational Coordinator for the 2020 season.

Austin Greene is a professional visual designer and educator from Raleigh, NC.  Austin is an adjudicator for Bands of America, Winter Guard International, and numerous local circuits as well as a previous judge for Drum Corps International.

He joined the instructional staff of The Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps in 2012 and served as Visual Caption Head from 2014-2015. Previously, Austin was Director of Bands at Concord High School in Concord, NC, and Director of Bands and Performing Arts Department Chair at Durham School of the Arts. In 2010, he was hired as an adjunct instructor at the Dublin Institute of Technology’s National Conservatory of Music in Dublin, Ireland. He has served for four years as a program consultant for the Bands of America Grand National Finalist Kennesaw Mountain High School Marching Band and works with the Western Carolina University “Pride of the Mountains” Marching Band.

Austin attended Western Carolina University where he earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Music Education in 2003. He went on to earn his Master of Music in Conducting Degree from the University of Connecticut in 2006. Austin is in regular demand as a designer, clinician, and adjudicator throughout the United States and abroad.

Gary Briggs will return to the Blue Knights as a Visual Instructor for the 2020 season.

Gary Briggs is a visual instructor and recent transplant to Southern California from the San Francisco Bay Area.

He is currently studying music education and performance at California State University Long Beach. Gary has five years of drum corps performance experience, including two years in the Blue Devils Drum & Bugle Corps (2016-2017).

Gary has been teaching marching band across California for five years. Currently, Gary teaches Blue Knights, Blue Devils B, POW Percussion; and Ayala, Fountain Valley, and Downey High schools. Gary lives in Anaheim, CA.

Phillip Michanowicz will return to the Blue Knights as a Visual Instructor for the 2020 season.

Phillip Michanowicz currently serves as the Associate Director of Bands at Pace High School in Pace, Florida.  He received his Bachelor of Jazz Studies, Magna Cum Laude, at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Florida and is completing his Bachelor of Science in Nursing with the University of West Florida in Pensacola, Florida.

Additionally, he received his Associate of Arts in General Studies, as well as Associate of Nursing from Pensacola State College in Pensacola, Florida. Beyond his duties at Pace High School, Phillip is an active adjudicator for marching band, indoor percussion and winter guard. Phillip’s previous experience in the performing arts includes performing in Drum Corps International with Carolina Crown Drum and Bugle Corps and The Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps.

While at the University of North Florida, Phillip was the lead trumpet and ensemble assistant in the nationally known “Jazz Ensemble One”, performing with multiple professional Jazz musicians famous worldwide.

Additionally, Phillip was the Visual Coordinator for Southwind Drum and Bugle Corps, as well as visual designer and consultant for multiple high schools and independent percussion ensembles across the United States, who have competed in Winter Guard International at the World Championships. Phillip is excited to be returning to the Blue Knights Visual Staff for the 2020 season!

Marcelino Nambo will return to the Blue Knights as a Visual Instructor for the 2020 season.

Marcelino Nambo is a native to Northern California, where he has spent most of his career as a performer and an instructor. He got his start as a performer at C.K. McClatchy High School in 2008, where he spent four seasons with the marching band, and 3 seasons with winter percussion. Marcelino began his teaching career with the John F. Kennedy High School Marching Band, which he helped find increasing success in their circuit during his four fall seasons (2014-2017) with the program.

Outside of high school, his experience with DCI lasted a total of six years. He began marching drum corps in 2011, where he spent four seasons (2011-2014) playing baritone for the Sacramento Mandarins, and two seasons (2015-2016) playing euphonium for the Blue Devils, where he was a part of the 17th World Championship Title for the organization.

He began as a visual tech, and began adding more responsibilities as a choreographer for the group. In 2017, he became the Visual Caption Head, where he helped lead them to numerous awards and a championship title. He also spent four seasons (2015-2018) with the JFK winter percussion ensemble, which he also helped to grow into a very competitive ensemble in their circuit. His last three seasons with the winter percussion ensemble, he was also writing drill for the group.

His experience teaching drum corps started with the Blue Devils B Corps in 2017, where he has been on the Visual Staff every summer since. He also spent a few weeks on staff with the Oregon Crusaders in 2018.

Outside of teaching JFK, Marcelino has helped teach and design for various other programs in the Sacramento region. Currently, he is the Visual Caption Head at Homestead High School in Cupertino, CA, a program he has been a part of since the fall season of 2017. During his first year, he was on staff as a visual instructor, and after finishing that first season, has been in the Visual Caption Head position. In his first season as Caption Head with Homestead, he helped take the program to compete in the BOA Grand National Championship, where the program placed 20th overall in the Visual Caption during combined Prelims. Outside of Homestead, he is also on staff as a visual instructor for the James Logan High School Marching Band in Union City, CA.

Matt Osborn will return to the Blue Knights as a Visual Instructor for the 2020 season.

Matt Osborn will be joining the Blue Knights for his sixth season as a member of the visual staff. Matt is a native of Akron, Ohio and lives in the Dayton area. As a marching member, He spent his first two seasons with the Glassmen Drum and Bugle Corps in 2010 and 2011 as a euphonium player.

For his age out summer, Matt was a member of Carolina Crown in 2012. During the 2011 season, he was offered a position at his alma mater, Norton High School, as a visual instructor where he spent five seasons. In 2015 he was a founding member of Rhythm X’s WGI winds ensemble.

After performing with the ensemble for three seasons, Matt now works as a visual staff member for Rhythm X. Currently, he works as a paraprofessional with students with behavioral and mental disorders and is serving as the co-visual caption head at Lakota East High School for his second season and his first with the schools’ winter guard program. Matt is excited to be with Blue Knights for another DCI season!

Jon Popham will return to the Blue Knights as a Visual Instructor for the 2020 season.

Jon Popham has been a visual instructor with the Blue Knights since 2013.  Jon’s drum corps career began in 2009 marching trumpet with the Glassmen Drum and Bugle Corps, which is where he aged-out in 2010. Jon was on the visual staff with the Glassmen for the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Jon has also worked with WGI Independent World groups, Cap City Percussion and Rhythm X Winds.

Jon has been the visual caption head for the Williamstown High School “Band of Spirit” since 2009. While holding this position at Williamstown, the band has been a Kentucky Music Educators Association state finalist each year and earned the Class A State Championship in 2009 and 2014; the “Band of Spirit” has also been a BOA Regional Class Champion and Grand Nationals “Class A” Runner-up. Jon is also an active clinician and designe

r for many high school bands throughout Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina, and Mississippi. In the fall of 2018, Jon had the privilege of designing for the Arkansas Tech University Band of Distinction.

Jon resides in Florence, Kentucky. He is a Special Education (Learning and Behavior Disabilities) teacher at Williamstown Independent Schools and a 2012 graduate from the University of Kentucky.

Nicholas Robusto will return to the Blue Knights as a Visual Instructor for the 2020 season.

Nicholas Robusto is a Mechanical Engineering student at Old Dominion University.

This is his second year with the Blue Knights’ Visual Staff. He currently instructs and consults for many performance ensembles along the East Coast.

His drum corps teaching experience includes 2018 Spirit of Atlanta Drum & Bugle Corps as a part of the Visual Staff.

Nicholas’ previous performance experience includes 4 years with The Cadets Drum & Bugle Corps (2012-2015) on the trumpet.

∴ Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps and its staff, visit HERE!

∴ Blue Knights 2020 summer national tour, visit HERE!

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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