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A Melodic Symbiosis

By Laura Hamlin Weiler ’00, Head of Community Engagement
Three siblings find harmony in Trinity's music program and beyond.
Picture an empty monastery in northern Spain. Suddenly sounds emerge from the sanctuary, soulful harmonizing that rises to the eves of this sacred space. This may seem like a scene from a movie, however it was a very real and improvised part of the Sprinkle family’s spring break. Upon entering this ancient setting, the family of five was spontaneously moved to song and a desire to give back to the beautiful space. And they have the musical chops to do it in an aurally pleasing way.

To say that this family is musically inclined would be a massive understatement. What this has meant for Trinity is the creation of a beautiful and harmonic symbiosis between the Sprinkle family and the school’s music department.

Callaway Sprinkle ’15 joined Trinity as a freshman, having been homeschooled his entire life until attending Trinity. His father, Mark, said their selection of Trinity involved several factors. The family was very drawn to the music program and the Outdoor Program. Mark and his wife, Beth, saw a continuity at Trinity “in what we did [at home] and in activities to lead to healthy lives.” Mark continued, saying, “We liked the size of the school, too, and the open access to get to know people really well.” In deciding for Callaway, they hoped to find a school that could work for McKinley ’18 and Calder ’21 as well, appreciating the fact that each boy has a distinct and independent personality.  “We wanted a place where we could be invested as a family. Each of them has truly found their own path. With each child, there were different points of confirmation that this was where we wanted to be.”

The common thread for each of the three boys has been their desire to do whatever was needed to help support the music program. This sense of giving has been reciprocated by the music department helping each Sprinkle to embark on various journeys of exploration of different instruments and musical paths.

Beth Sprinkle sings and has a deep appreciation for music, and Mark plays viola. They started the boys off playing piano. The family had an electric piano that had sound effects that was used in the playroom to add sound effects to Lego battles and other types of play. Music was always a part of their life, built right in to their every day learning.

Callaway ’15 played clarinet and saxophone in Trinity’s jazz and concert band as well as pep band. He also sang in the a capella group, the Tritones and flourished in IB music through piano and composition. Callaway also plays tin whistles for Irish music, a style the entire family enjoys. Music has remained important to Callaway during his time at William and Mary. At Trinity, Callaway was also heavily involved in Trinity’s Model United Nations club, as well as the theater program and the Outdoor Program, while earning his IB diploma.

McKinley ’18 played accordion and piano as a Titan. He was thrilled at Mr. Rollins’ willingness to explore accordion in jazz band, certainly a diversion from a traditional approach. He was also in the concert and pep bands, where he played percussion in addition to accordion. McKinley also sang with the a capella group, the Tritones.  As McKinley matured, he became what his father called a “sneaky showman” with a sense of style and a prized cowbell used for stirring up crowds in the pep band. McKinley also completed the IB diploma program, participated in the Outdoor Program, and was a linchpin in the Model United Nations club and discovered his love for theater at Trinity. Now at William and Mark, McKinley remains involved in multiple music groups, among other activities.

When Calder’s high school years arrived, he was not completely sure he wanted to follow his brothers to Trinity. He loved the homeschool schedule that allowed for a midday focus on music and was reticent to change. According to Calder ’21, “This all changed when I visited a band class and talked to Mr. Rollins.” Calder’s main musical focus at the time was ukulele and he was not sure how this instrument would fit at Trinity. In talking to Mr. Rollins, he was encouraged to join Jazz Band, this instrument being another deviance from tradition. He very much appreciated Mr. Rollins’ flexibility in exploring different instruments and sounds together.

Calder also liked the option to take two electives and wanted to explore the Elements of Theatre class. For him, music, theater and the Outdoor Program were the three main draws in coming to Trinity. “Since then,” says Calder, “ I have realized there are many other reasons I like the school.”

Since joining Trinity last year, Calder’s musical exploration has exploded. “It has gotten crazy over the last year!” he says.

Calder began a formal relationship with music at Hope Church when he was four or five years old. “I looked up so much to the guitar teacher, Mr. Crowley and wanted to be like him.” He started piano lessons around six years old (like his older brothers) and played only piano for the first five years. He then took a break from piano and began playing ukulele after his father bought him a ukulele and book. Mark thought it would be for fun, however Calder took it very seriously and dived into it, teaching himself by listening to a jazz ukulele player and using the theory base from playing piano. For Calder, it came very naturally.

In an effort to help Trinity’s concert band, Calder had also begun to play the upright bass the summer before his freshman year because he knew the band needed a bass. This motivation, says Music Department Head Brian Rollins, is typical of how the Sprinkles think. “All three boys are incredibly adaptable and have a ‘spirit of gratitude’. They appreciate what the school is and are willing to do whatever is needed. They ask ‘What do we need?’.”

A similar desire to support Trinity’s music programs led Calder to learn the glockenspiel before coming to Trinity, as he thought he would follow in McKinley’s footsteps with percussion. Calder also renewed his relationship with the piano (after a break of more than a year) this fall in preparation for Cabaret. He has also learned the electric bass since becoming a Titan. These are all instruments which he has approached with focus and intention. He also dabbles in guitar, banjo, tin whistle, and accordian. Given this versatility, it is no wonder that Calder played in 16 of the 26 numbers in this year’s Cabaret.

When asked if it is difficult to focus musically, Calder says his “fall from sanity with musical instruments” came when he saw the upright bass in the music room and knew no one was playing it and was intrigued. He asked orchestra teacher Kimberly Ryan about it, and she invited him to play. He did not know what a commitment it would be, however he welcomed the challenge. Joining orchestra put Calder in a new setting. He had seen the progression of the orchestra from its inception to its current iteration, and is now excited to be a part of it.

Like his brothers, Calder also sings with the chorus and the Tritones, and he has thoroughly enjoyed engaging with theater on the backstage side.

A final example of his symbiotic relationship with Trinity and music comes each morning when Calder treats the entire community to a daily ukulele devotional.

He began playing ukulele in the mornings before Morning Meeting as a way to practice. Says Calder, “It helped kickstart my day and ground me and center me. The reception from the community was overwhelmingly positive, and he continues to share daily. “It is my gift I have been given to play this many instruments, and I am grateful for that.” And in case the casual listener is wondering, he very rarely plays the same song twice.

In the words of Brian Rollins, “the Sprinkle family embodies what Trinity does best for students and families: We embrace students as who they are and where they are, and they give back tenfold.” To that we say, “More cowbell!”
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