COMMENTARY: There is no off-season

DAYTON, OH – Winter Guard International (WGI) is the performer’s hotspot for elementary to collegiate-level students who want to participate competitively during the winter season, which runs from January to April. This has recently become an equal opportunity experience year-round for wind and brass ensembles, as well as color guard and percussion.

Several choose to do WGI secondary to drum corps or high school marching band as a way to “stay warm” during the off season; however for others, an off-season does not exist.

Ian Maxwell

Ian “Frank” Maxwell, a 5th year member of Blue Knights Percussion Ensemble and 2nd year member of Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps, shares the impact both WGI and Drum Corps International (DCI) has had on his performance career:

“Well for me, I chose to do WGI first. It was the first thing in my life that I ever fell in love with. I wanted to be a part of it the minute I saw it. When I chose to start doing both, the incentive was that I would be aging out soon and I didn’t want to miss my opportunity,” said Maxwell. “But then, I discovered just how amazing you can get doing both WGI and DCI year-round. Before, when I would come home from Dayton, I wouldn’t see all these people I had just spent months and months loving and getting to know for another 6 months. With DCI, the friends just came along and we built a summer connection as friends and performers. The bond that grows is why I always come back to both.”

Adam Selby

There are components to both DCI and WGI that make each season worthwhile. Each group of performers possesses its own style of show with additional flair to make it anything but dull. The floor, props, equipment, instruments, and uniforms are all part of a creative piece of art that is unique to each ensemble and the staff behind it all. In comparison to Drum Corps International, WGI shows take place inside various performance venues and gymnasiums. This gives members an opportunity to practice with consistency, without the presence of the earth’s elements. The age out for all winter groups is age 22 with the exception of World Class color guard performers, who are able to march for as long as they please, as long as their body physically agrees!

Opus X Color Guard Members as part of the Blue Knights-Taiwan Performance Ensemble

Blue Knights alumni and members of Opus X, an Independent World Class guard based out of Denver, Colorado, were a part of an international group that traveled to Taiwan in June of 2014 (read about Blue Knights-Taiwan here).

Adam Selby, a 2nd year color guard staff member for Blue Knights Drum and Bugle Corps, is also an experienced WGI performer. Adam aged out of the Santa Clara Vanguard in 2011 and shares his thoughts on continuing his color guard career through WGI.

“WGI offers the ability to be able to perform in the world class at any age. This professional development will help me in my quest to become a better educator in the activity,” said Selby “The development in my home state of Arizona is also very important to me. The opportunity to perform after having aged out of DCI is truly amazing and fulfilling.”

From a color guard career of 7 years and counting, WGI is my preferred activity of choice, and unlike any other performing experience. The opportunity to perform less than a hundred feet away from the audience creates a much more personal connection. Looking down the tunnel in the University of Dayton arena, the curtain revealing thousands of people anxiously waiting to see the final product is exhilarating. Being involved in this activity has created many unforgettable moments that are more than worth the 12-hour rehearsal days, the countless reps and the nagging reminders to give more energy than it may be possible to give. WGI has no doubt become increasingly popular in its 30+ years of existence. For a dedicated performer, there is a constant strive to be better; there is never an off-season.

» Watch this video to learn more about what WGI is all about:


sarahandersonSarah Anderson is graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science in Communication from Arizona State University in May 2015.  Her experience in the marching arts consists of 3 years with The Academy Drum & Bugle Corps color guard (2011-2013) and has aged-out with the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps color guard in 2014.  Sarah is currently marching her third season with the world class Winter Guard International finalist FeniX Independent winter guard under the instruction of Brandy DuBose, Rob Jett, Emalee Kengott and Adam Selby, all of whom are current Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps Color Guard staff.

In addition to her experience with color guard, Sarah has been surrounded by an entire family of musicians and has played both the piano and violin since early childhood. Sarah is very excited about what this summer has to offer and will now have an opportunity to look at the other side of things, from a previous insider’s perspective.

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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