Beyond Her Voice: Karen Slack’s Entrepreneurial Insights Take Center Stage at Babson

Karen Slack stands in front of theater curtains.

World-renowned soprano Karen Slack is used to inspiring others—lifting them with a soaring spiritual composed by Margaret Bonds or rending hearts with Vincenzo Bellini’s “Norma”—but she has a different kind of inspiration in store for Babson College students during her upcoming residency March 19-22. 

“I hope to inspire them to be more than what they think they want. To think bigger, broader, and deeper. To tap into more of their gifts,” Slack said. “I came from focusing solely on my opera career to now, thinking about the whole artist, the whole being, and the whole brand.” 

The entire Babson and Wellesley communities can hear Slack’s stunning soprano at a free performance of her critically acclaimed recital, Of Thee I Sing! Songs of Love and Justice, with pianist Kamilla Arku, March 22 at Babson’s Carling-Sorenson Theater. Before she takes the stage, however, Slack is eager to share her personal entrepreneurial path with Babson students. 

“I won my first major competition when I was 18 years old. I had no idea what it really meant to be an opera singer, but I knew I had a gift,” Slack said. As she continued her singing career, she began to branch out. “I did a lot of outreach. I held a lot of master classes and career talks, and what that did for me was sharpen my skills,” Slack said. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was thinking outside of the box. I was becoming more than just a voice.” 

Beyond My Voice 

Headshot of Karen Slack
Who I Am Beyond My Voice: Karen Slack in Residence features programming that includes entrepreneurial talks and an opera recital performance, which are free and open to the public. (Photo: Kia Caldwell)

Little surprise, then, that Slack’s upcoming artist residency program is called “Who I Am Beyond My Voice.” The residency—co-sponsored by the Office of the President and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion—kicks off with a master class March 19, in which Slack will offer insight into her preparation and performance skills.  

“My hope is that I’m grooming the next generation of opera fans, and cultivating the next generation of people who will support the arts,” Slack said. 

The next day, Slack will join Babson Associate Professor of Marketing Anjali S. Bal for “The Entrepreneurial Life of an Artist: Personal Brand and Building a Career,” a discussion about her personal branding and the importance of art in the business world. 

“Karen offers a unique perspective for the Babson community, and the level of engagement that she has agreed to is phenomenal,” Bal said. “I find students enjoy engagements with professionals and given her immense success and standing in the opera community this residency will be even more impactful for our students.”  

REGISTER NOW to attend the free entrepreneurial talk, The Entrepreneurial Life of an Artist, at 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 20, and the performance of Karen Slack’s recital, Of Thee I Sing! Songs of Love and Justice, at 7 p.m. Friday, March 22 at the Carling-Sorenson Theater. 

Slack, who thrives off her interactions with students, said it’s important to remember that art is a business. It was Babson President Stephen Spinelli Jr. MBA’92, PhD who helped Slack realize she is an entrepreneur. 

“It’s interesting because Dr. Spinelli was the first person to say to me, ‘Karen, you’re an entrepreneur,’ ” Slack said. “I had never thought of myself like that. But it’s true. I teach, mentor, advocate for artists, and I’m an artistic advisor for companies. I have my own brand outside of singing, and I’m always thinking about how I can expand my art.” 

Slack’s real-world application of personal branding serves as a perfect lesson for Babson students, Bal said. 

“In Principles of Marketing, students start to develop their brand so that they can build their personal brands for their careers,” Bal said. “Karen’s commitment to personal branding is evident. I have followed her through Instagram and LinkedIn and have been impressed by her authenticity, content, and spread through those platforms.” 

For Thee I Sing 

As Slack anticipates her time at Babson, she emphasized the symbiotic relationship between art and business. By bridging these worlds, Slack hopes to instill in students a deeper understanding of the value of creativity, empathy, and authenticity in the corporate landscape. 

Karen Slack poses for a portrait.
Karen Slack hopes to impart on Babson students a world in which the arts thrive alongside business innovation. (Photo: Kia Caldwell)

“It’s about connection, human connection,” Slack said. The ability to tap into that authentic human connection is incredibly powerful. “That’s why you don’t have to understand the words in opera to understand what’s happening.” 

Slack’s residency culminates in a free performance of her critically acclaimed recital Of Thee I Sing! Songs of Love and Justice at 7 p.m. Friday, March 22 at Babson’s Carling-Sorenson Theater. 

“I’m very excited to perform at Babson. It is a piece that I curated myself. It is an evening of song and visuals,” Slack said. The recital, created in 2020 at the height of the pandemic and shortly after the murder of George Floyd, is another example of how Slack has expanded beyond her voice. 

“Curating and building this program, the branding of it, the singing and the performing, reaching out to the audience and touching people—it touches all aspects of my world,” Slack said. “It also encompasses, I think, all of what this residency is about.” 

For Slack, the residency represents a chance to cultivate meaningful connections, spark inspiration, and pave the way for a future where arts thrive alongside business innovation. 

It is also one of many appearances to come. 

“I’m looking forward to being a part of the Babson family,” Slack said. “I know I’ll be back later in the year and even for the next season.” 

Posted in Community, Entrepreneurial Leadership

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