Neil Nayyar, the 13-year-old Elk Grove musician who plays 107 instruments, performed the national anthem at the Sacramento Kings’ Oct. 28 game at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.
He played prior to the tip-off of the team’s fourth game of the 2019-20 regular season.
Wearing a pink and gold jacket, Nayyar stood in front of a large American flag held by a group of people and played his saxophone, precisely hitting every note along the way.
At the end of the performance, the crowd of 15,870 cheered, and Kings Owner Vivek Ranadivé quickly made his way toward Nayyar to congratulate him.
Although Nayyar had previously performed at the Golden 1 Center – in a lion dance for Chinese New Year – it was the first time the spotlight shined solely on him at that venue.
Nayyar, who began playing music when he was 6 years old, recognized his latest performance as his biggest opportunity thus far in his young career.
“This is like a big thing, I would say,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for me and also for everybody (who is associated with him).”
Before he got the opportunity to play “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Nayyar had to pass an audition.
“The (Kings) were looking for some performers,” he said. “I performed (an audition) in March or April or May, and they liked it. And they said, ‘You get to perform (on) the court.’”
Nayyar, who is of East Indian descent, spoke about having the opportunity to meet Ranadivé, who grew up in the Juhu area of Bombay, India.
“That (was) awesome,” he said. “And that’s another thing: Ranadivé supports the Indian community, and that’s what I like about him. He went to Bombay a few weeks before with his team and they (played preseason games) in India. I was like, ‘Wow, this is awesome.’”
Although one might think that Nayyar is content with his ability to play 107 instruments,, that is not the case. He plans to continue learning how to play other instruments.
Nayyar told the Citizen that he is not in a hurry to begin playing instrument No. 108.
“Another goal is to make my first album, which will have 107 musical instruments in one track,” he said. “Right now, I’m more focused on my album than adding (another) instrument. So, the main goal is finishing the album.”
As for when the public can hear that album, Nayyar responded with a bit of mystery.
“Maybe it will come soon,” he said with a smile.
Nayyar continues to add dates to his performance schedule. This month, he will play the cello at Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly’s Black Tie Birthday event in Sacramento; the piano at the Kaiser Permanente employee award gala events in Sacramento and Roseville; and the saxophone at a venue in Las Vegas.
In his hometown, he will perform at the Elk Grove Dickens Street Faire on Nov. 30.