Students, faculty and staff filled the atrium and lined the balconies of NIU’s Barsema Hall Wednesday to cheer Chicago Blackhawks national anthem singer Jim Cornelison, who got the semester off to a rousing start with his signature rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Cornelison, who has become world famous for singing the anthem (accompanied by 20,000 roaring hockey fans) was on campus to do more than just perform.
Determined to be more than a one-hit wonder, he will be working with some NIU business students to craft a business plan that will allow him to capitalize on his fame through other endeavors.
“I am very aware that the success of the Blackhawks has turned me into a product, a voice, an image,” he told NIU business students.
“And, while singing the anthem for the Blackhawks is an honor and a thrill, it is not the only thing I am capable of doing. I want to sing many kinds of music,” the classically trained former opera singer told the students.
He is currently working on an album of patriotic music, and would love to sing with the Boston Pops, perform with a live orchestra in Grant Park during Fourth of July fireworks or sing at The Lincoln Center.
“Why dream small?” he asked.
Along with increasing opportunities for personal success, he told the class, he wants to continue working for the benefit of charities that serve veterans and children, and perhaps, one day, open up a “high-end” music club in Chicago that will feature jazz and other types of music for sophisticated music fans.
Helping build the “Jim Cornelison brand” and laying out a pathway toward reaching those goals will be a pair of NIU students who will spend the semester hammering out a business plan as part of their coursework in applied entrepreneurialism, said NIU alum and entrepreneur Eric Wasowicz, who teaches the course.
“It will be a unique experience for those students,” Wasowicz said. “They will work with him to define his value proposition, define his customer segments, identify costs and more. At the end of the semester, the plan they present will serve as their final exam.”
Exactly which students will work with Cornelison remains unknown. That will be determined by the first homework assigned to students, which was to draw up a “napkin sketch” of their plan. Wasowicz will choose the two best ideas and assign those students to the project.
It is an unusual way to hand out an assignment, he said, but then, that is the nature of the class.
“It’s not like we are teaching math here, where the answer to everything has been known for 2,000 years,” Wasowiz said. “Diving into the unknown is the very spirit of entrepreneurialism.”