There’s nothing like a day at the old ball game for Gary Israel, especially when he gets to perform. He dons his trademark U.S. flag-inspired golf shirt, stands before the crowd and sings the national anthem, expertly navigating the tricky and multiple octaves with his tenor voice. Then comes the applause, but it’s not for him, he contends. Rather, it’s because of the Star Spangled Banner’s historical and patriotic significance. “I’m a real traditionalist. I do it as it’s written,” he says. “It’s not about me. It’s not about the entertainment value.”
For the past 15 years, Israel, who is the publisher of Estero Lifestyle Magazine, has been singing at Southwest Florida sporting and other events, including spring training, Everblades hockey, FGCU basketball and Memorial Day celebrations.
Israel’s first national-anthem appearance locally was in 2001 when he was chosen to sing at a Minnesota Twins preseason game. He’s being invited back each year. Over time, he’s broadened his reach and does between 20 and 25 of the volunteer gigs annually. His musical pursuits began at age 6 when he learned to play the organ and began voice training, which eventually landed the grade-schooler in front of his church’s congregations at weekly services.
These days, his stage is in arenas and ballparks. “It’s just a nice atmosphere,” says the Estero resident. “[And singing] is a tremendous emotional release.”