Band: History & Glossary of Terms

The Mt. Carmel Marching Marching Band & Color Guard is one of the top 3 high school marching bands in Southern California.

Mt. Carmel’s two-time Grammy Award-winning band and orchestra were directed by nationally recognized director Warren Torns (now retired).

In 1988, under the direction of Tom Cole, the Marching Sundevil Band was featured in the opening scenes of the movie “Little Nikita”, starring Sidney Poitier, River Phoenix, and Richard Jenkins. 

In 2005, Mt. Carmel’s Music Department hosted the Holiday Bowl High School Band Competition. 

In 2006, the Marching Sundevils performed for the 11th time in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California.

In  2010 Mt Carmel performed in both the Fiesta Bowl  field tournament and parade review.  Mt Carmel took 2nd in the field show competition by .05  points and 1st place in the parade making them the overall champions of the Fiesta Bowl National Band Championship. 

Currently the Marching Band, Concert Band, Wind Ensemble II, and Wind Ensemble I, String Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra are led by Garry McPherson. 

The annual Mt. Carmel Tournament of Bands, has been held each October since 1976 and is the largest and most widely attended parade and field competition in San Diego with over 30 bands in attendance.

Since 2015, the Mt. Carmel Marching Band and Color Guard have won 1st Place at the SCSBOA Band Field Championship where they compete against the top twelve 6A Division high school marching bands in Southern California. The school’s marching band has racked up more trophies than the entire athletics teams combined. When visiting the Mt Carmel Band Room there are so many trophies they are literally stacked on top of each other.

  1. Two Time Grammy Award Winners
  2. One of the Top 3 Marching Bands in Southern California
  3. Five time SCSBOA Gold Medal Winners. A list of the winning shows is below. To see videos of these championship performances click here
      • 2015 “enTANGOment”
      • 2016 “Discover The Ancient Skies”
      • 2017 “Dark Hearts”
      • 2018 “Scrolls of The Ancients”
      • 2019 “Kaleidoscope of Mind”


As a new parent or student you will hear terms which won’t have sense without proper context. Below are explanations of what you will probably read or hear about

1A, 2A, 3A, 4A, 5A, 6A : The class (size of the band) – 1A bands are the smallest while 6A are the largest. Size is determined by the number of musicians. The Mt Carmel Marching Band is a 6A Band

Arcadia: The end of season SCSBOA Band Field Championship is held in Arcadia, California  so it is often referred to as “Arcadia” and not ‘The Championship”. This is always the Saturday before Thanksgiving. It is all day affair with a Parade Competition in the afternoon and the Field Competition in the evening.

Auxiliary: The Color Guard

Band Council: The student executive committee 

Band Moms: Band Moms are responsible for chaperoning the students at football games, tournaments, and/ or parades. Other duties include giving students water, tucking hair inside shakos, putting plumes in shakos, walking the parade routes if needed, helping kids with medical needs, blocking traffic at home football games. To learn more and volunteer visit their page.

Band Dads: Band Dads are the transportation committee of the Mt. Carmel Marching Band. They are responsible for transporting all equipment, instruments, uniforms, etc. to all band and color guard events, including football games and band tournaments. They are responsible for ensuring that equipment arrives and is staged before the band needs to practice or perform, and for loading everything back up after the show. Their goal is to make every event fun, safe, and enjoyable for all, and they do this by thinking ahead and staying calm and organized. They are also responsible for maintaining equipment, building props, and assisting with any other project that our Directors and Assistants can think up. The learn more and volunteer visit their page.

Color Guard: The group of tireless athletes who provide visual interest to the field show through the use of costumes, flags, sabers, rifles, dancing, and props.

Concert Season: Season after Marching Band during second half of the school year (January-June). Groups fall into several sections: Orchestra, Concert Band (Freshmen band), Wind Ensemble 1, Wind Ensemble 2, and Pit Orchestra (for musicals presented by MCHS Drama Department).  There are also other band opportunities available such as Jazz Band and Pep Band.

Dot Book: A small 3×5” index card notebook that shows the student’s location at all the locations (i.e. dots) during the choreographed field show. It is important to note that students must bring their Dot Book to all rehearsals and marching PE classes!

Drum Major: The student who conducts the band – some bands have multiple drum majors for field shows, but MCHS has one drum major for the field show and one Parade Band Drum Major.

Field Show: The field show is a choreographed, marched musical routine that may include the use of props. The show is performed by both the band and the color guard. It is performed during home football games and during band competitions. 

Honor Guard: The Field Show Drum Major, Parade Drum Major, Percussion Captain and Color Guard Captains. They represent the band during tournament award ceremonies.

Indoor Percussion: (aka Winter Drumline) Is an indoor drumline consisting of the marching percussion (or battery) and front ensemble (pit or frontline) sections of a marching band. Indoor percussion marries elements of music performance, marching, and theater; thus, the activity is often referred to as percussion theater.  Instrumentation is anything that would or could be used under the percussion category of any musical group, including: snare drums, tenors, bass drums, cymbals, xylophones, marimbas, vibraphones, tambourines, chimes, timpani, drum kits, and other similar instruments. Indoor Percussion performs at judged competitions officiated by local and regional associations such as ADLA (American Drum Line Association), DCI (Drum Corps International), SCPA (Southern California Percussion Association)

Mentor: Mentors are selected by Mr. McPherson. Each new student is assigned a mentor who helps them learn the ways of band, marching, and the music for the show. This is a great person for your student to talk to when they feel overwhelmed.

Parade Band: The parade band marches in competitive parade reviews. It is composed of advanced musicians and marchers. Every band student must audition for the Parade Band in early fall and only the best marchers are accepted into this elite unit

Percussion Section (Marching Band): It has two components. The Drumline consists of the kids who actually march with various types of drums strapped to them. The Pit is set up on the sidelines and its members do not march, but rather play non-marching instruments such as Marimbas, Chimes, and Vibes. While the Pit members do not get the physical exertion of marching that is compensated for by the continual need to move/load/unload heavy pit equipment. Other terms heard surrounding Percussion is ‘The Battery’

Pep Band: Pep Band is a group of student musicians who play from the stands during sporting events. It helps get the crowd excited and into the game. It is an optional activity.

Plumes and Shakos: Shakos are the band members’ hat for their uniforms. Plumes are the fluffy white decorative accessories that are stuck onto the band members’ shakos before they perform. Between appearances they are carefully stored and managed by our uniform coordinator. The plumes are very soft, very red, and very susceptible to destruction by water and/or contact with teenagers. Thus they are applied at the last possible moment before performances and removed as quickly as possible after performances.

Red Sea: The name of the student section cheering section in MCHS Sundevil Stadium and MC Sundevil Arena. They’re extremely enthusiastic and over the top when it comes to supporting Mt Carmel events. They won the KUSI “Battle of The Fans” a few times.

SCSBOA: Southern California School Band & Orchestra Association is the largest professional organization serving music teachers in 11 southern counties of California. It is the organization that determines the rules and judging criteria for the band competitions in which MCHS competes. The results of all the tournaments are posted online at SCSBOA website in the marching section.

Section: Each group of like instrumentalists is a section. Examples of sections are flutes, trumpets, baritones, Sousaphones. While the whole marching band rehearses together on Wednesday nights, each individual section will schedule their own weekly rehearsal called a sectional.

Sectionals are led by section leaders and mentors. Typically, sections will meet to eat dinner together before Wednesday Night Rehearsal

Section Leaders: Student leaders of each section of the band. They are experienced musicians (generally upperclassmen) chosen by Mr. McPherson. They have demonstrated both musical skill on their instrument and leadership within the band. Their responsibilities include: coaching marching skills, conducting pass offs, leading sectionals, and arranging social events for the section. Section leaders will reach out to incoming freshmen and invite them to get together to meet the rest of the section. These activities help create a close community which makes band such a great experience.

Winter Guard: Unlike traditional color guard, winter guard is performed indoors usually in a gymnasium, on a large basketball court-sized tarp known as the Floor. Performances make use of recorded music rather than a live band or orchestra, and last between 5 and 8 minutes. Winter guard ensembles commonly perform at judged competitions officiated by local and regional associations such as WGI (Winter Guard International), WCWG (West Coast Winter Guard) or WGASC (Winter Guard Association of Southern California).

What is the Mt Carmel Tournament of Bands?
As stated earlier since 1976 on the last weekend in October  Mt Carmel High School hosts a parade and field show competition for over 30 bands. It is the largest band tournament in Southern California. The entire tournament is run by volunteers. For more information, check the Tournament of Bands website at

What is band camp?
Band Camp takes place the week before school starts. Freshmen and new band students are expected to report on Saturday; returning students will report on Monday. Band camp is an all day, 5 day event. Each day will include sectionals, basic marching skills, lunch breaks, learning to march the field show and concert style rehearsals of the field show. It is important to prepare your student for this fun but grueling experience. They should have appropriate clothing daily: sunscreen, sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat and a large water jug. Other students in their section will have lots of suggestions.

What is a Pass Off?
As students learn the music for the field show, they must pass a playing test to demonstrate mastery of each portion of the music. There are also marching pass offs where your student has to demonstrate proficiency in the various marching steps, postures, and drills (which may or may not include a matching musical part). The pass off is arranged by your student with one of the leaders of their section. It can be taken as many times as is required to pass. More information about pass offs can be found at Expectations for Passing off Field Show.

Pictures and Videos:
One of our Band Dad’s is a professional photographer and videographer. Since 2015 he has been photographing and filming the all aspects of the Mt Carmel Marching Band, Color Guard, Orchestra, Drum Line, Jazz and Pit Orchestra. He has extensive photos and videos which he gives away free of charge to students and parents. To view and access photos and videos go to his Mt Carmel Photo Site located within his main website.

Get involved!
There are lots of opportunities for you to volunteer. Marching Band doesn’t happen without the parents and family members who get involved and support the Mt. Carmel Music Foundation. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What performances will my student be part of?

  • Halftime Field Shows Performance at home football games
  • Pep Band at home football and basketball games
  • Parade Band Reviews 
  • Field Show Performance at all Tournaments

Q: What’s the difference between a marching [name of instrument] and concert [name of instrument]?

  • The instrument used for marching can take a beating. It is used outside in all kinds of weather. It may be left on the field during parts of the choreography. While not required, many students own or rent one instrument that is used for marching and another, higher quality instrument that is used for concerts since it is treated more gingerly.

Q: How does a band tournament work?

  • Marching bands compete by size (class 1A-6A) with the smaller bands performing first. MCHS is a 6A band, so it performs its field show towards the end of tournaments. The band that is hosting the tournament is scored but does not compete for the trophies. The host band goes last during field show competitions. In parade competitions, the host band goes first.

Stay up to date
Be sure to register your email with the Mt. Carmel Music Foundation for  updates. Regularly check the band website and also add the band calendar to your favorite calendaring system (Apple Calendar / Google Calendar / etc.).