14-Year-Old Seattle/Toronto-Based Guitarist Nikhil Bagga To Perform U.S. National Anthem At NHL’s Winter Classic January 1, 2024
Photo by Kevin Martinez
Today, the National Hockey League (NHL) provided an illustrated preview of its takeover of T-Mobile Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Seattle Mariners, and unveiled its entertainment plans for the 2024 Discover NHL Winter Classic outdoor game between the Seattle Kraken and Vegas Golden Knights on New Year’s Day, January 1, at 3 p.m. ET (TNT, B/R Sports on Max, SN, TVAS). A limited number of tickets are available for purchase via Ticketmaster, the official ticketing partner of the NHL, and performing the U.S National Anthem will be teenage guitarist Nikhil Bagga.
The NHL’s premier event will be the first outdoor contest for the Kraken who began play during the 2021-22 season.
At only 14-years-old, Bagga is winning over fans and critics alike with his undeniable charm and enthusiasm. Deeply connected with music from a young(er) age, Bagga took up guitar at the age of 9 and learned to play along with his favorites: AC/DC, Ed Sheeran, Nirvana, and Queen. His first public performance was busking on Pacific Beach, San Diego - on his 10th birthday.
With a gift for playing by ear and a passion for melodic exploration, he spent the early days of the pandemic sharing a song a day with his fans, covering artists spanning pop and rock. His fans came to know him as a human jukebox who could cover over 350 songs.
Soon, playing covers wasn’t enough to satisfy his passion. And while still locked down in the pandemic, Bagga started writing, documenting his daily reality in song. After amassing a catalog of originals, he wanted to find a way to share his music with others. Recorded at Seattle's London Bridge Studios with producer Eric Lilavois (Ayron Jones, Saint Motel, Island Apollo), Bagga released his debut full length recording Leap of Faith in the spring of 2022. The record - featuring drummer Ben Smith (Heart) and bassist Jeff Rouse (Loaded) in addition to Bagga’s vocals and guitar - is a love letter to “thick guitar tones and the 90’s punchy alt rock of Teenage Fanclub and Matthew Sweet.” (Glide)
Born in Toronto and now living in Seattle, Bagga is carving out his own sonic path, inspired by the legendary hometown heroes who once ignited the city's musical revolution. Channeling the spirit of Jimi Hendrix's electrifying riffs, the raw authenticity of Kurt Cobain's grunge revolution, and the soulful melodies of Pearl Jam, this young musician absorbs the essence of Seattle's iconic sound.
Despite his youth, this teenage music prodigy has already amassed an impressive resume, boasting over 40 performances in the city including the Crocodile, Vera Project, and Pike Place Market . Notably, Bagga has become a familiar face at Seattle's professional sports stadiums having played the national anthem for the Seattle Mariners (MLB) four times, and the Seattle Kraken twice (NHL) including a rare electric guitar version of ‘O Canada for the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.
In addition to shows around Seattle, Bagga has shared the bill with Mike McCready (Pearl Jam), Dave Matthews, Allen Stone, and an all-star cast of fellow musicians for the SMASH “Songs of Hope” Benefit. Nikhil has also performed in support of several other charitable causes including the Big Table Benefit (supporting restaurant workers impacted by COVID,) and Champions for Change at Climate Pledge Arena
As he gears up for his fifth rendition of the national anthem at T-Mobile Park, Bagga continues to inspire with his remarkable talent and dedication to the craft.
This Guitarist is on a journey to fuse the diverse influences of Seattle’s musical landscape into a singular, powerful voice. As the echoes of the city's past legends resonate through their fingertips, a new chapter in Seattle's musical legacy is being written through Bagga.
Keep an eye out for Nikhil’s new single “Never Meant It” being released soon followed by an EP in early 2024.