Last year Homewood High School’s The Network show choir won four out of five contests they entered, and the only choir to beat them is the No. 1 in the country out of Clinton, Mississippi. But for director Scott Thorne, now 15 years into the job at Homewood, it’s all about far more than winning—or even singing and dancing. Make plans to attend a show sometime soon, but first get to know Scott a bit below.

How did you get to this position?

It was a strange route. I went to a high school in southeast Alabama that had no choir. There was this girl I was great friends with and had a little crush on who was going to the junior college close by, and she said, “You should come sing in the choir. It’s got a scholarship.” I didn’t know if I was going to be able to sing, but I got there and I loved it and ended up majoring in music. Then I saw Enterprise High School’s show choir, and I said, “That’s what I want to do.” When I graduated from Auburn, I went to Eufala. They didn’t have a show choir, so when I walked in the first day, I said, “What do y’all think about being in a show choir?” They said, “What’s that?” Within four years, they were winning some awards. Homewood was the pinnacle to me of what show choir in Alabama was. I remember seeing people with their kids walking down the street, and I remember thinking, “Oh my goodness, this is home!”

What do you love about your job?

I think people often spend too much time teaching music, and they forget to teach kids. I love watching them grow and seeing confidence built. I grew up and didn’t have a ton of confidence, and music gave me all of my confidence so I know what it can do for that person. I want it to be something really meaningful, not just singing and dancing.

What stands out from the past 15 years at Homewood?

My mother was my biggest fan, and she got diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer in 2009. The 2011-2012 year I put together a show about her journey in life, about trying to overcome the obstacles and going one more day. I never told the kids what it was about, just that it was about adversity. I told them right before we went into warmup at a competition what the show was about, and she came into warmup and into the center of the circle and the kids sang. That was a pretty powerful moment.

Last year was the show choir’s most successful season. Can you talk about the show’s themes?

It was about grieving because that senior class had gone through that with me when my mother died. It’s not just about death though. I tell them your parents are going to grieve you when you go to college, and when your boyfriend or girlfriend breaks up with you, you are going to grieve. A girl from a school we compete against talked about how important our show on grieving was. Her dad had been diagnosed with cancer and her grandmother had died a month before, and it was an amazing way for her to process some of that. In the recordings of the judges’ comments, they would get the ballad and you’d hear them sniffing in the background. We have all had reasons to grieve. If the kids buy into it, they are going to sell it. I try to find things that are relatable to what they are going through.

You were diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a few years ago. How have you been active with community efforts to fight it?

I am a captain of an MS walk team, and the kids are my team. I also started a big fundraiser called BourbonHam, a bourbon and barbecue event in January. In two years it’s made more than $200,000. It’s given me a passion away from my primary passion, and I want my kids to see me doing the walk team because that’s what you do is go out there and be involved.