Marching Band

Welcome to the Mt. Carmel Band, Orchestra and Color Guard program! This nationally recognized program has demonstrated consistent musical excellence throughout its 35+ year history. Mt. Carmel Instrumental Music Department is considered one of the top programs in all of Southern California. Many of the top academic students at Mt. Carmel participate in our music program and consider it a highlight of their high school experience. These are the nicest and best students at Mt. Carmel and the type of students you will want your student to be around and make friends with.

Mt. Carmel’s two-time Grammy Award-winning band and orchestra were directed by nationally recognized director Warren Torns (1944-2022).

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. 

Between 2015 and 2019, the Mt. Carmel Marching Band and Color Guard, under the direction of Garry McPherson (now retired) won 1st Place at the SCSBOA Band Field Championship where they competed 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 team 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”

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.

Currently, the Marching Band, Concert Band, Wind Ensemble II, Wind Ensemble I, String Orchestra, and Symphony Orchestra are led by Martin Fierro

Looking ahead: Why should my child sign up and stay in Band or Color Guard all four high school years? College admission boards have told us time and time again, that students who stay in their high school music program in classes like Mt. Carmel’s Band/Color Guard all four years have a great advantage for college admission over the typical students who have the same GPA (grade point average). In addition, the statement above is true for music students when compared with those who have taken the same number of AP (advanced placement) classes without being in a four-year program like Band. College admissions are actively looking for students who can show a four-year commitment to a high school program. College admission boards know the chances of students participating in college campus life, activities, and finishing college is much higher in music students than typical students who only take AP classes in high school and never show involvement in anything extra that high school has to offer. The Mt. Carmel Music Department encourages its students to take AP classes and most students also take a few online courses throughout their tenure at Mt. Carmel so they can stay in music all four years. It is important to understand that your student does not have to sacrifice taking band/guard all four years at Mt. Carmel for taking an “all AP”  class schedule if they are planning to go to a top-tier college. College admission boards weigh heavily on staying in a music program of our caliber and band/guard will help in the college board’s decision process. More of our music students are admitted to their first or second choice of college when compared to the average MC student who does not participate in a four-year program such as instrumental music.


From September through November the Mt Carmel Marching Band performs at all home football games.  The Marching Band is a pep band during the game and performs its field show during half-time. The Band and Guard provide a high degree of excitement and entertainment at the games which adds to the campus atmosphere. Without our participation, games would not be as exciting or fun to see.

Be sure to check the calendar for this year’s home games. A typical home football game schedule looks like this:

  • 5:30 pm – Color Guard students report time.
  • 5:45 pm – All other band students report time.
  • 6:00 pm – Dress, groom – warm up & tune with your section leader.
  • 9 – 10 pm – time varies when games conclude
  • NOTE: Members of the Band stay for the entire football game unless otherwise directed by Mr. Fierro
  • Food & Drink: It’s a good idea to eat a meal before arriving for a home football game.


Marching Season is the competitive part of our year. The Band and Guard are equivalent to one huge sports team and it is essential to understand that we need everyone at every performance to be competitive since we compete against the finest bands in Southern California.

Band and Guard competitions are fun and exciting to participate in as well as being a spectator. These competitions promote good sportsmanship and are a great learning tool to help us become better musicians and performers.

During August and September, the band members memorize and perfect their show music and learn their field show drill. The Color Guard Team learns their drill and choreography. Once all the hard work is put into the show, the Marching Sundevils are ready to start competing at tournaments. Everything the Band and Color Guard work for during marching season culminates at the Saturday tournaments during marching season. Tournament season begins the first week of October and goes through the first Saturday of the Thanksgiving break in November. This means all band and guard members need to keep all the Saturdays in October through the first Saturday of Thanksgiving break open for our competitions. Most of our field tournaments will occur on Saturday evenings between approximately 5:00 PM to 9:30 PM.

Mt. Carmel also will compete with the auditioned “Competitive Parade Band” in three to four parades during some of these Saturdays. Every student is given the opportunity to make our elite Competitive Parade Band through an audition in the first week of October. Students need to be able to play the year’s chosen march by memory at a proficient level and be able to march in step while playing. See the schedule for details. Not every student will be in the competitive parade band and will therefore only perform with the field band.

Because marching season falls under the umbrella of the performing arts curriculum and P. E., the performance is equivalent to a major test in any other high school course and is part of the Marching PE grade for all band and guard members. When a member misses a performance, it will affect everyone in the Marching Band as our competitive score will be lower if members are missing during a performance. If a student does miss a tournament or performance, he/she will lose a letter grade on their report card as there is no way to recreate a performance for that single individual to be given performance credit. Only in very special circumstances can a student obtain an “excused” absence for a missed performance. The absence needs to be cleared through the Band Director, Mr. Fierro as soon as an issue is known and needs to be addressed well in advance of the performance date.

At the beginning of every competitive week, the Director will have a “weekly schedule” that will be passed out to every student and posted on this website with all “call times” (this means what time you need to report) for every performance that particular week. Please make sure your student has been fed a nutritious meal and are well hydrated before they arrive at a tournament so they have plenty of energy to put on a great performance.

When the student arrives at call time for a performance, they will look for our semi-trailer in the school’s parking lot and look for their section leader. The student will need their instrument and have the proper undergarments and marching shoes that will be worn with their uniform or costume (see “Uniform care and rules” ). The student should also bring regular street clothes to change into after the performance.

Students will first stretch, then change into uniform/costume and then begin instrument/equipment warm-up with their section. About 30 minutes before the performance, the band will tune and do a final warm-up with the Director and then go to the staging area at the stadium and then enter the stadium to perform the show.

After the performance, the students will go back to our semi-trailer, change out of uniform and return to the stadium for the awards ceremony. Tournaments and parades are judged by a panel of respected music educators and give scores to Bands and Guards in each division which is regulated by the size of the group. Awards generally given are 1st place through 4th place groups for Band and Color Guard with the top scoring group receiving the coveted “Sweepstakes” award. The Bands and Guards are judged in the areas of Music Effect, Visual Effect, and then a separate Guard category.

Most of our tournaments are local in the San Diego area and parents will need to deliver their students to the events. Usually, there will be two or three events that we will take buses to the parade or tournament. We also encourage our parents to buy an entry ticket to the tournaments and enjoy a great evening of entertainment by all the area’s band students as well as cheering on our own Marching Sundevils. An Awards ceremony happens at the end of the tournament and then you may collect your student and go home. Band Tournaments are very exciting and we hope all parents become Marching Sundevils fans and go to all the performances!

As a new parent or student, you will hear terms that 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, and 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 shows through the use of costumes, flags, sabers, rifles, dancing, and props.

Concert Season: Season after Marching Band during the 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, 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. Fierro. 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. Another term 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’ hats 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 instrumentalists is a section. Examples of sections are flutes, trumpets, baritones, and Sousaphones. While the whole marching band rehearses together on Wednesday nights, each individual section will schedule its 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. Fierro. 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).

SCSBOA Championship Performance Videos. Five time Gold Medalist and Tournament Grand Champions