5 Questions with...Jim Cornelison

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5 Questions with...Jim Cornelison

By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of CommunicationsCSNChicago.com Contributor

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the citys most popular personalities on the spot with everyones favorite local celeb feature entitled 5 Questions with...

On Wednesdays, exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weeks guesthes been called the voice of Chicago sports, whose stirring renditions of our national anthem continue to send United Center Blackhawks crowds into a frenzy each and every time outhis brilliant tenor voice has earned him numerous accolades in the opera field over the years and his popularity among Chicago sports fans just grows and grows(everyone now) Ooh Say Can You Seeeee!...that its 5 Questions withJIM CORNELISON!

BIO: Jim Cornelison is in his fourth season as the Blackhawks full-time national anthem singer, having made regular appearances singing the anthem at the United Center since 1996. In addition to his countless standout anthem performances for the Blackhawks, Cornelison also sang prior to a Bulls playoff game last season and Bears playoff games in 201011. He also sang at the Bears 2011 season opener on Sept. 11, the ten-year anniversary of 911.

An undergrad from Seattle Pacific Universitymasters student from Indiana University, Cornelison, a native of Vienna, Va., sang with numerous opera companies before coming to Chicago in 1995 to take part in the Lyric Operas Apprenticeship Program where he one of six accepted apprentices among more than 800 applicants. He has performed nationally and internationally with some of the biggest names in opera, such as Plcido Domingo and Zubin Mehta. Known as a heroic tenor for the dark color of his voice but ability to sing in a tenor range, he has sung with opera companies in Bordeaux, London, Brussels and San Francisco, among many other places.

A 1992 graduate of Indiana Universitys Masters of Music program, Cornelison has received numerous accolades for his singing, including the William Matheus Sullivan Foundation Award and the George London Foundation Encouragement Grant, as well as first place in the American Opera Society of Chicagos 1997 Vocal Competition.

1) CSNChicago.com: Jim, its a pretty impressive feat to be a have such a solid fan base as someone who is not a pro athlete or a top sports exec in town, but youve managed to pull that off nicely. Congrats. Lets get right to itat what age did you know you had a little something extra in your voice that separated you from the pack and was music something you knew you wanted to pursue at that time?

Cornelison: When I went to college, I started with music playing the piano and singing in choir. At the end of my freshman year, one of the professors sat me down and asked if I was serious about music. I really didn't know if it was what I wanted to do, but knew I liked it. He said I should consider studying voice because I was not a good piano player! I was such a country bumpkin I really didn't know why people studied voice. From there, the ceiling kept going up and I never did run into anyone that discouraged me.

I sang with Seattle Opera Chorus when I was 20 and realized my voice was as powerful as many of the 40-year-olds. Then, in graduate school at Indiana is where I became one of the leading baritones. I didn't switch to tenor until I was 29. When I came to the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1995, I was a tenor and people really paid attention to my voice. I had an options contract with Columbia Artists Management at the time and when I left the Lyric, I signed with them. My first job was in Bordeaux. I travelled a lot during those early years of singing, working in Bordeaux, London, Brussels, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Hawaii, at the Lyric in Chicago, Seattle, and many others.

2) CSNChicago.com: Your stirring renditions of our National Anthem have become famous around the world thanks in part to the digital age we live in. On any given night at the United Centerwhen the organ begins the first few bars of the Star Spangled Bannerin your mind, do you shut out the thousands of screaming fans during the anthem to help you focus or does the love from the Blackhawks crowd play a role in your performance?

Cornelison: I love the noise of the crowd! I have to pull into myself if I get too excited. There are very noticeable differences in the volume level on different nights. On some nights, the enthusiasm really fires me up. I'll sometimes find myself on the edge of overdoing it and then I have to settle down.

3) CSNChicago.com: Speaking of the National Anthem -- as many celebs and even pros have done countless times before -- it has to be asked, have you ever screwed up the words while you were singing it?

Cornelison: No! Ha! I wish people would quit asking me that....it makes me nervous!

4) CSNChicago.com: Its probably safe to say that many fans in the Chicago sports community are unaware of your standout opera backgroundand its also pretty safe to say many of them have never even been to the opera (present interviewer included). In your opinion, do you think the opera community works hard enough to bring in new and younger fans to see and hear the performances of some of the greatest voices in the world?

Cornelison: No I don't. Some companies do better than others, but the new operas being written seem to be written to impress academics. I have a fantasy of seeing new opera that is irreverent comedy, something like "Animal House: the Opera!!! Comic opera has almost disappeared in new works. If you created interest with younger people with something like that, then it is a small jump to classic comic opera or the most popular works like La Boheme, or I Pagliacci. I am amazed at the number of native Chicagoans I meet who have never been to the opera. Conversely, I'm amazed at the number of people I've met at hockey games who also are opera fans.

5) CSNChicago.com: If you walked into a karaoke bar and decided to give it a go, name some non-opera song or songs would we most likely hear you belt out.

Cornelison: Believe it or not, I have only done karaoke one time and it was an abysmal failure according to all reports from my supposed friends who were present. I sang "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me" by Billy Joel, not my usual cup of tea. If I do it again, I will do one of my party tunes which could be My Way, Besame Mucho, O Sole Mio, or I might try my hand at Don't Fall in Love with Me by John Legend.

Karaoke is a great way to pretend you are a singer other than what you are! Weddings are fun that way, too. I don't do them often, but I've performed songs that were requested by the bride and groom, as long as I thought I could pull it off: Sinatra, show tunes, occasionally pop and even some country!

BONUS QUESTIONCSNChicago.com: Anything youd like to promote Jim? Tell usCSNChicago.com readers want to hear about it!

Cornelison: I like to put a plug in for the USO that does so much work to support our troops. They and the Blackhawks provide a great opportunity for our military people to come out on the ice with me when I sing and it has elevated the meaning behind the Anthem tradition at the games. It is great fun to see them in the third period on the big screen when all the fans are cheering for them. Great stuff! I'm friends with Tom Tuohy at Dreams For Kids as well. They do incredible work with kids that are disabled, come from poverty or maybe, along with the Illinois Patriot Education Fund, help kids who have lost a parent in the wars. The Blackhawks support them, too. I try to help either group out whenever they ask me.

Cornelison LINKS

Chicago Blackhawks official website

Jim Cornelison on Facebook

Jim Cornelison on Twitter

Bulls finalize training camp roster

Bulls finalize training camp roster

The Bulls finalized their training camp roster on Monday morning, in the lead-up to the start of the team's official media day.

The team will carry 19 players into the preseason before cutting that number down a maximum of 15 in late October.

No. 0 Isaiah Canaan, guard: Signed to a two-year, $2.2 million deal in July, Canaan will compete with Spencer Dinwiddie and Jerian Grant for minutes behind Rajon Rondo.

No. 2 Jerian Grant, guard: The combo guard will get a fresh start in Chicago after an inconsistent rookie season with the Knicks.

No. 3 Dwyane Wade, guard: The three-time NBA champion and future Hall of Famer begins the next chapter of his famed career after 13 seasons in Miami.

No. 5 Bobby Portis, forward: After showing flashes of potential in his rookie season, the 6-foot-11 Portis will be in line for an extended role following Joakim Noah's and Pau Gasol's departures.

No. 6 Cristiano Felicio, center: The Brazilian impressed plenty in last season's final month, and he should see significant minutes behind Robin Lopez.

No. 7 D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, guard: The undrafted rookie averaged 14.8 points per game in his senior season at Georgetown.

No. 8 Robin Lopez, center: One of the league's most underrated centers, Lopez was one of five players to average 10 points, 7 rebounds and play in all 82 games a year ago.

No. 9 Rajon Rondo, guard: The veteran point guard led the NBA in assists last season, but playing on his fourth team in three seasons means his best days may be behind him.

No. 11 Doug McDermott, forward: The sharpshooter showed significant improvement from Year 1 to Year 2, finishing sixth in the NBA in 3-point field goal percentage. Now about the defense...

No. 15 Thomas Walkup, guard: The All-American honorable mention went for 33 points in No. 14 Stephen F. Austin's opening-round upset win over No. 3 West Virginia.

No. 16 Paul Zipser, forward: The Bulls' 2016 second-round pick can do a bit of everything, and at 22 years old he could be ready to contribute sooner than later.

No. 20 Tony Snell, forward: It may be difficult for the former first-rounder to crack the rotation after a forgettable third season.

No. 21 Jimmy Butler, guard: An All-Star in each of the last two seasons, the 27-year-old Butler is poised for yet another career year.

No. 22 Taj Gibson, forward: The 31-year-old veteran is in a contract year, and should see an even more expanded role after starting 55 games last season - even if Nikola Mirotic replaces him in the starting lineup.

No. 24 Vince Hunter, forward: The 6-foot-8 Hunter averaged 21.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game for the Reno Bighorns last season as rookie.

No. 25 Spencer Dinwiddie, guard: A casuality of the Pistons' crowded backcourt, Dinwiddie has a chance to carve out a role in Chicago behind Rajon Rondo.

No 31 J.J. Avila, forward: A standout at Colorado State who graduated in 2015, Avila appeared in four Summer League games for the Knicks, averaging 1.2 points and 1.5 rebounds.

No. 44 Nikola Mirotic, forward: The Bulls will be relying on Mirotic's outside shot, which improved mightily in his second season from 31.6 percent to 39 percent.

No. 45 Denzel Valentine, guard: The jack-of-all-trades will need some time to find his role, but he's an apt passer and outside shooter with good size on the wing.

Five things to watch during Bulls’ training camp

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USA Today Sports Images

Five things to watch during Bulls’ training camp

All the new guys: Last October, the Bulls entered camp with essentially the same roster that lost to Cleveland in the second round of the 2015 playoffs, save for then-rookie Bobby Portis. This time, there’s no Derrick Rose, no Joakim Noah, no Pau Gasol, no Mike Dunleavy, and no E’Twaun Moore.

That’s four starters (essentially) whose performances or presence has been counted on in some way, even through some of the uncertainty that surrounded a few of these guys.

Conceivably, the Bulls can have around five new players in the actual rotation who weren’t thought of this time last year, although last year’s product left a lot to be desired.

The adjustment time and chemistry building starts Tuesday.

Who starts at power forward: All other positions in the first five are set, especially with the new faces. But the pivotal decision for Fred Hoiberg, if it hasn’t been made already, is who will start alongside Robin Lopez at center. It could be Nikola Mirotic, or Taj Gibson or even Bobby Portis, depending on Hoiberg’s sensibilities.

Smart money says it’ll probably be Mirotic considering he’s the best perimeter shooter of the three and actually a decent defensive rebounder. Gibson being a great screener, finisher and defender makes him intriguing as an option, but offensive space will be limited if he’s out there with Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. As for Portis, is he ready to take a step toward consistency in year 2?

The point guard: Rajon Rondo’s basketball intelligence is genius level, where he can master a gameplan and probably even devise one of his own that rivals his coaches. The man can counter a play before the opposing defense initiates an adjustment. That said, how will he and Hoiberg mesh this season? He clashed with Doc Rivers, had knock-down battles with Rick Carlisle in Dallas and George Karl didn’t have it in him to fight anybody in Sacramento, let alone Rondo.

Rondo likes playing the game at his speed, with his own feel and rhythm. Hoiberg will have to tailor his style for the new personnel he has, and luckily for him, isn’t a “my way or the highway” type of fellow that’s sure to rub Rondo the wrong way. Will Rondo embrace Hoiberg’s system and become an extension of the coach, or will Hoiberg give Rondo enough rope to explore Rondo’s intelligence to find a middle ground?

Will that even be enough?

The backup point guard: Just as intriguing as the starting power forward battle will be who backs up Rondo at point guard, although it’s likely that player won’t have to fill the traditional role of doing anything aside from walking the ball up and letting either Butler or Wade initiate the offense.

It’s likely Hoiberg will change his substitution patterns to have either Wade or Butler anchor second units in the second quarter, as a way to maximize the time he has with both while not having them invade each other’s space in the halfcourt. So who plays backup point could be more about who fits best next to the best player on the floor as opposed to who the best player is.

It seems to open the door for rookie Denzel Valentine since he can play three positions (although defense will be a task), along with Jerian Grant, Isaiah Canaan and Spencer Dinwiddie.

Grant was a first-rounder in 2015 who wants to show he’s worth that status, while Dinwiddie was projected as a lottery pick three years ago before tearing his ACL at Colorado.

It’s certainly not the most stressful decision Hoiberg will have to make, but a curious one.

Developing an identity: Does it happen in training camp? Who knows, but tones are often set as to what type of squad a team will be. Last season, Hoiberg believed he was building on a solid foundation after Tom Thibodeau’s defense first mentality, but signs of things crumbling began to show very early in the preseason.

This season, with so many new pieces, moving parts and overall uncertainty, there’s question as to what kind of team the Bulls will be. It’s intriguing, to say the least. But what will the Bulls hang their hats on come late October?