Ian Pilley doesn't know what it's like to not have a winning season.
Since he joined the Nation Ford High School marching band as a freshman bassoon player, Pilley and his bandmates have captured the state championship three straight years.
As drum major, the 17-year-old helped lead the band to its win Saturday over Fort Mill High. On Thanksgiving, the group will march in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
Pilley, who hopes to become a band director, talked with The Herald about life as a member of a top-performing band.
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How does it feel to win a third straight championship?
I was really excited because we've been working hard all three years, and it's nice to see that work pay off.
Is the feeling of winning a third different than the first?
It feels better, just because we've been competing with more competitive schools. ... Now with Fort Mill competing and the schools are head to head on almost everything, it feels a lot better to win.
Why is Nation Ford's marching band so successful?
We do a lot of hard work during our rehearsals, but it's a lot of individual commitments. People want this band program to be great, so they push themselves and push the band program.
What is Martin Dickey like as a band director?
He's pretty tough most of the time, but he also knows how to joke around, which is a good thing. When we're having good rehearsals and everybody's doing what they're supposed to be, he's making jokes a lot.
He cracks down a little bit when it's not such a good rehearsal, but that generally moves us to be better and try to get back on his good side.
What advice do you have for sixth- and ninth-graders starting band for the first time?
Keep working hard at what they're doing, whatever it may be. Because high school band does require a lot of work and dedication. But anybody can do it. You just have to put in the time and effort.
Band is a demanding activity. What sort of time management strategies do you use?
I write everything down, what I have to do for home work and what not. I make sure I keep an eye on my time, like when I'm doing homework and stuff, so I don't spend too much time on one thing. I noticed in the past I've done that before and it gets really bogged down and I got behind. I just try and stay on top of things as much as possible.
In 20 years, when you're looking back on your high school band experience, what do you think will be your fondest memory?
Just being part of this program. ... High school band has been a great experience.