Jim Cornelison singing the national anthem at a Chicago Blackhawks game
Jim Cornelison, right, singing the national anthem.   Photograph: Courtesy of the Chicago Blackhawks

With the Chicago Blackhawks on a six-game road trip, Jim Cornelison, the team’s popular national anthem singer, can grab a little time to focus on his day job: selling real estate.

“You’ve got be focused to keep real estate going,” says Cornelison, a Prudential Rubloff agent. “There are people who need to be called back—and paperwork. That’s hard for me to keep up with during the season.”

January was hectic for Cornelison. Besides singing seven times at the United Center, he also performed his commanding rendition of the national anthem at the Bears’ last two playoff games at Soldier Field. And for a part of the month, he was battling a cold—a big deal for a guy who has to power out “The Star-Spangled Banner” in front of tens of thousands of people.

It’s because of months like January—and last year’s triumphant NHL playoffs—that Cornelison, who has been a full-time real-estate agent since 2005, allied himself with a partner. “With the market being an upriver swim right now, I couldn’t keep up with everything,” he says. “Real estate is about people, not about land, and people want you to be there for them.” During hockey season, his fellow Rubloff agent, Jeanne Carava, does most of the management of their listings.

It was between his undergrad studies at Seattle Pacific University and the master’s program in opera performance at Indiana University that Cornelison got his first experience as a real-estate investor. In 1987, he and some college buddies bought and flipped a house in Seattle. “I think I made $1,500 on the deal,” he recalls. He moved to Chicago in 1995 to work at the Lyric Opera; the next year, he started singing the anthem for the Blackhawks, as one of five singers in rotation. In 2000, he picked up again on real-estate investing, buying a run-down house in East Garfield Park for $185,000; after fixing it up, he resold it for $410,000 in 2004. He next flipped a small condo building in Budlong Woods.

In 2001, with his opera career frequently taking him out of town, Cornelison stopped singing for the Hawks, and in 2005, now with two children, he settled into selling real estate. Two years later, John McDonough, the president of the Blackhawks, tapped Cornelison to be the team’s exclusive anthem singer.

Now living in Albany Park, Cornelison sings at all Blackhawks home games, as well as at many parties and events. And he continues working the real-estate beat. The two jobs have their similarities. “When you go in to do a listing presentation or to meet a client for the first time, there’s an element of performance,” he says. “You’re presenting yourself as best you can. You set aside your cold or whatever issues you have—like when you’re singing.”

Cornelison likes the Hawks’ chances this season—“I think we’ll have a good playoff run,” he predicts—but he’s not looking forward to Super Bowl XLV. “I hate the Steelers and the Packers both,” he says. “This is a miserable Super Bowl.”