high note

Islanders national anthem singer Nicole Raviv bridges nationalities and musical genres

The international artist taps into her multicultural background to create a new flavor of music

Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images

Nicole Raviv performs the National Anthem prior to the game between Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Islanders in Game Three of the Stanley Cup Semifinals of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nassau Coliseum on June 17, 2021 in Uniondale, New York.

As the New York Islanders’ national anthem singer, Nicole Raviv was used to the spotlight when she took the stage on June 9 ahead of a playoff game against the Boston Bruins. 

What she wasn’t prepared for, however, was a technical glitch that cut her microphone, resulting in an arena-wide singalong that quickly went viral.

After a year in which Raviv had largely sung to an empty arena due to COVID-19 restrictions, the moment was heartwarming. “I think at this point, it’s become a lot more intimate with these [fans] and less distant. This is a crowd, this is a performance… and more of like a collective environment,” she told Jewish Insider in a recent conversation.

The evening was very special for Raviv as the team’s national anthem singer, a job she first took on in 2019. She will soon to head to Israel — where her parents grew up — for the hockey off-season and plans to travel back and forth to North America.

The move is the next natural step for Raviv, who was born and raised in Montreal with her three siblings after her parents relocated to Canada. For years she has seamlessly woven her personal identity and her creative expression as a musician who moves between languages, cultures and genres.

“Hebrew is the first language I was taught at home. My father used to sing with me from a very young age and taught me my first melodies,” Raviv told JI. “I always felt a connection to the Hebrew language. I’m always asked to sing in Hebrew for Jewish events in America. When I’m on stage in Tel Aviv, I’ll throw in a few Hebrew cover songs, of course.”

Raviv, who can sound like a sultry pop diva one moment and an Israeli folk singer the next, refers to her style as “world music” — a blurring of genres that focuses more on narrative than a particular sound. Her trilingual background is reflected in her music. 

“I think that I’ve grown up like anyone would, and realized what I want to talk about. So lyrics are more important to me now,” Raviv said. “And sounds and textures of the music are important to me now. Even if I’m singing in English, I love putting Mediterranean sounds in there just to paint the story of me and who I am.” 

Raviv seemed destined for an international musical career. Her mother, a child of Holocaust survivors who was born in Romania, and her father, who was born in Morocco — both actors — met on stage performing in Israel. When she was 18, she moved from Montreal to New York to study musical theater at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, and at The New School University, where she received a bachelor’s in fine arts degree, and never left the city. 

“New York was always the place I wanted to go to,” Raviv said. “Because I think the opportunities were best for my industry — and for every industry.”

She released her album “#GirlBoss” in 2017, and her single “Do It for Love in 2019.” Her next single, “What You Started,” will come out in July, and she plans to release a new album later this year. 

“I am excited to collaborate with the well-renowned saxophone player Richie Cannata [he played the soulful sax solo on Billy Joel’s iconic song “New York State of Mind”] on my new song that comes out this summer,” Raviv shared. “I’m working with producers from New York as well as in Israel.”

Even in New York, Israel has never been far from mind. During Israel’s conflict with Hamas in Gaza last month, which she watched unfold from thousands of miles away, she found it “difficult to be far from my family and see everything unravel the way it did,” she told JI. Raviv noted the recent rise in antisemitism in the U.S. that followed the conflict. “In America, things got bad too.”

Rare for a musical artist, Raviv has incorporated visual of antisemitic attacks into her work. The video for “Do It For Love” includes a scene in which an identifiably Jewish man is pushed to the ground by assailants who swipe his yarmulke off his head. The video ends with Raviv dancing in the desert with an Israeli flag.

“Angel,” released last year as a tribute to her late grandfather who passed away in 2018, was her first official bilingual song. Her grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, moved to Israel after World War II and lived there the rest of his life. The music video is a mixed-media compilation of home movies and vintage clips of Israel that underscore Raviv’s multicultural background.

Many of her songs are in Hebrew. “I’ve kind of been everywhere, but I’ve always been Jewish. I’ve always been Israeli, I speak the language,” Raviv said. “So I’ve always just carried that with me. And that sense of pride has always been with me. I’ve been getting a lot of reactions from people saying, ‘So nice to see someone Jewish and proud out there.’ It gives them confidence to do the same,” Raviv said. 

“I want to take this melting pot that I am and that New York is and that Israel is and that all of us kind of are,” Raviv said. “And bring it all together.”