Like a child tasting ice cream, Skylar Caligaris is not ready to settle on one flavor and stick with it. And she may never be.
Her basketball coach at Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge, Kelly Cole, says Caligaris could play guard at the Division 1 level in college. Her lacrosse coaches told her the same thing after she impressed as an attacker over a four-year varsity career.
Also an artist, her drawings and paintings were displayed throughout the school for fellow students to see. And her voice, which Caligaris discovered just a few years ago, is like a refreshing blend of Alison Krauss and Stevie Nicks all wrapped in one 5-foot-9 teenage girl.
Caligaris gives a very tangible feel to the phrase “the world is your oyster.”
“She has so many talents, it's almost unfair,” said her vocal instructor, Adriana Repetto. “And on top of that, she's a beautiful young lady.
“When she was in line for gifts, she was well treated by whoever was giving them.”
And Caligaris, who grew up in Sudbury, isn't ready to give any of them up, even if it defies logic.
When she first started at Buckingham Browne & Nichols, she was told she wouldn't be able to do everything she had planned: be a three-sport athlete for four years, get good grades, and still maintain a social life. And at that point, she had hardly tapped into her artistic potential.
“Nobody goes to BB&N saying that,” said her father, Dave Caligaris, who starred on the basketball court at Holliston High and Northeastern before playing professionally in Greece. “You just can't do that.”
When Skylar was younger, and a bit taller than most girls her age, her basketball coaches all wanted to slot her into the forward position and let her run wild. But she resisted. Her older sister, Logan, was a guard, like her father, and there was a lot more to her game than just posting up and grabbing rebounds.
Cole was able to watch Caligaris develop into the Rajon Rondo of Independend School League girls' basketball by her senior year.
Except her jump shot might have received more positive reviews.
“She's a fantastic shooter,” said Cole, who was recently hired as an assistant coach at Harvard after guiding BB&N to a 15-11 overall record and a 9-3 record in the ISL last winter, with the team's third-place finish in the league marking its best since 2005.
“And she would much prefer to be a shooting guard and not have to worry about running the point. But because she's been head and shoulders above so many of the athletes at the high school level, she had to play the jack of all trades,’’ Cole said.
“That's what made her a great teammate. She makes those people on the floor look better any chance she gets.”
While Caligaris finished her high school career with 1,312 points (third on the school's record list) and 489 assists (first all-time), she also hauled in 822 rebounds (fifth all-time).
But she opted not to play Division 1 basketball in college because she didn't want to close the door on different opportunities.
When she starts talking about all of her other interests, it's easy to forget that she's just a month removed from graduating high school.
As Repetto said: “She understands her skills and knows what some of her weaknesses are. I know people in their 30s that don't know those things. It's pretty amazing that she's at that level.”
And she seems to keep adding to her repertoire.
Caligaris really got into drawing and painting as high school went on, and eventually was selected as the Petropoulos Art Scholar at BB&N. And three years ago, when a friend casually told Caligaris she was going to take voice lessons, suddenly a new portal of talent was opened.
“I had never even heard her sing,” her dad said. “Not in the shower, not anywhere. All of a sudden she came home and said, ‘I'm going to sing in a cabaret night.’
“As a parent, I saw this as a disaster,’’ he admitted. “And then she shocked the heck out of me. That ranks in my top five biggest surprises ever.”
Repetto said Skylar has a natural ability that she was able to tap into quickly. While she only imagined herself singing in a lower register, eventually Caligaris was able to stretch her comfort zone and move her voice up the scale, and now describes herself as a mezzo soprano.
One problem was that, if she sang alone, trying to focus on hitting notes rather than singing with passion and feel, she struggled to find any confidence. But on stage and in the spotlight, after she'd race from a basketball game and show up in her uniform, suddenly those magic chops reappeared.
“I do better in that situation than I would in a closed room,” Caligaris said. “I just like the way it feels. That sounds so corny, but it's expressive to me. It's something that just comes out.
“When I was younger I wasn't very self-confident, so that's a big thing for me. And I never look for recognition, but whenever I sang I always got such positive feedback. I don't want to impress, but I've always wanted to fulfill expectations and make people happy. And I'll be happy if they're happy.”
This fall, Caligaris is going to Skidmore College, where she'll study, play basketball, sing, draw, and maybe even hop on the lacrosse team if she has any extra time (although her definition of “extra time” seems to be different than most).
One question, though, keeps getting asked: When is she going to pick just one thing and pursue it exclusively? Well, if she has it her way, the answer would be never.
“I’m the type of person that needs to do more than one thing,” she said. “It keeps my life interesting. It's more fun for me that way.”
Last attempt to pry: Say a genie gave her the choice to be the best in the world at anything she wanted, but she must pick one thing.
She takes a few seconds, then answers: “I would be a professional athlete that sang the national anthem.”