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Levine School of Music sits on one of Washington’s higher hills in Cleveland Park. From the top floors of the building, formerly part of the Carnegie Geophysics Institute, Stanley Spracker can easily see a good deal of Washington and Maryland, and, on clear days, into Virginia. Surveying the landscape is strangely appropriate for an attorney who has spent his career practicing environmental and real estate law in Washington. But it’s also a comfortable post for the music school’s first-ever general counsel and vice president for planning and development. And the challenges of a music school are a long way from Spracker’s years of private practice in the District, first with the now-defunct Wald, Harkrader & Ross and then, for the last 20 years, with Weil, Gotshal & Manges. Spracker, 52, who has served as GC of Levine just since the beginning of the year, has taken a meandering approach to music education. He has been, over the years, a litigator, a real estate lawyer, and one of the founders of Weil, Gotshal’s environmental practice. FROM CHURCH BASEMENTS The Selma M. Levine School of Music, named for a Washington attorney and music-lover who died in a car accident, was established in 1976. Early classes were held in rented church rooms. Over the years, the school expanded to additional locations, and today offers more than 100 different music classes — in everything from piano to music history — to more than 3,500 students of all ages. Levine has a senior chorale with 100 members, the oldest of whom is 96. The school’s more than 180 faculty members are also experienced musicians and often perform around the Washington area. Spracker’s work at Levine involves what he calls a “wide variety of legal issues.” There are the usual contract matters and the tax concerns for a not-for-profit organization. The school has immigration issues — since Levine’s faculty members come from as far away as Russia, New Zealand, Italy, Argentina, and a host of other nations. There’s some copyright work involving class curricula, faculty compositions, and the performing of music. Spracker’s old specialty, real estate law, comes in handy: Levine has four campuses in Northwest Washington, Southeast Washington, Bethesda, Md., and Arlington, Va. And one of the bigger legal issues the school has faced was some zoning resistance from the Cleveland Park neighborhood when the school sought to renovate and move into its current building back in 1996. For outside counsel, Spracker turns to pro bono volunteers. For the most part, the volunteers come from the ranks of Levine’s board of directors or through recommendations by board members. In a few cases — such as the zoning battle — Levine uses paid outside counsel. Spracker’s job also goes beyond legal work to development and planning matters. There’s a lot going on, with the school recently moving from its Kensington, Md., location to the Strathmore Music Center in Bethesda. Another unusual venture has been Levine’s participation in a National Institutes of Health study on the effects of creativity on senior citizens. “It’s a wonderful time for Levine,” Spracker says. “We’ve grown from our roots in church basements.” Levine’s newest campus will open later this spring in Anacostia at THE ARC — Town Hall Education, Arts, and Recreation Campus, a community center that will also house branches of Children’s Hospital, the Boys and Girls Club, Covenant House, and even the Washington Ballet. SECOND ACT For Spracker himself, Levine is a kind of a second act. “I had thought about a public sector career,” he says. “And for the last 10 years, I’ve been involved in the arts community,” particularly, in serving on Levine’s board. He is also a trustee of the Atlas Performing Arts Center, which has renovated a historic movie theater in Northeast Washington into an arts complex that will provide areas for performance and studios for dance and music. The center’s grand opening is next month. Levine also represents a kind of homecoming for Spracker. “A music education was essential in helping me survive adolescence,” he says. (He studied piano.) Added to that, he loves seeing the “commitment and passion of the artists” as they teach classes and hold performances throughout the community. The studios themselves are scattered throughout the stately Cleveland Park building, designed by Washington architect Waddy Wood, so Spracker is able to hear and see children discover music for themselves. One of the school’s former voice students just made her Metropolitan Opera debut last fall. “That’s an inspiration to our faculty, who take great pride in the accomplishments of our students,” says Spracker. GETTING THE LEAD OUT Before music sent him in multiple directions, Spracker had realized that environmental law too allowed him to cover a good deal of legal turf, so to speak. One of the highlights of his tenure at Weil, Gotshal took place just before he left the practice. Working with the DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, a nonprofit advocacy group, the law firm investigated the problem of high levels of lead in Washington’s drinking water (first reported in The Washington Post in 2002) to determine whether those levels violated legal limits. Weil, Gotshal became interested in the issue, recalls Spracker, because so many of the firm’s lawyers live as well as work in the District. They realized, he says, that this issue affected them directly. “We wanted to look at the legal framework for regulating drinking water, and how it is managed in D.C.,” says Spracker. “We also wanted to see what was broken, what was working, and we wanted to look at long-term solutions.” The result was an extensive 133-page study, “Lead in the District of Columbia Drinking Water: A Call for Reform,” that was published in December, just as Spracker was bowing out of the firm. The report was a joint effort of Appleseed, Weil, Gotshal, and the D.C. office of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, which looked at practices in other jurisdictions. The goal was not to see what kind of data the city concealed or how the breakdown in communications occurred, notes Spracker. “Our job was to look forward. We wanted to see how we could create a system that improved public confidence.” One of the report’s main suggestions was the creation of a central agency, accountable to the mayor, the D.C. Council, and the public. In January, D.C. Councilwoman Carol Schwartz introduced a bill, based on the report’s findings, to create a Department of the Environment, separate from the Department of Health where the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority is now housed. Another result of his work with Appleseed is that Spracker has recently signed on to the nonprofit’s board of directors. “It’s a wonderful way to stay connected to a number of my colleagues,” he points out. Not only that, but some of Appleseed’s other board members have links to the Levine School as well. At Weil, Gotshal, “I loved the variety” of practice areas, Spracker says. “I need an intellectual challenge, and I love taking on uphill matters that are not obviously thought to be resolved in our favor. “The fortuity of environmental law is that it seemed to come into conflict with traditional bodies of corporate law and insurance law. We asked, how are these new environmental problems going to fit into established codes of bankruptcy or old insurance policies, or how does the [Securities and Exchange Commission] address these liabilities?” He handled matters from environmental and workplace health and safety law, to litigation over Superfund sites, to insurance claims for coverage on hazardous waste cleanups. He also counseled clients on developments in environmental regulation and on environmental matters relating to mergers and acquisitions. Last November, he was involved in a deal in which the General Electric Co. acquired Ionics Inc. for $1.1 billion. All of this work must seem light years from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, where Spracker completed a master’s degree in 1977 (before earning his law degree at the University of Chicago in 1980). The degree gave him theological training, although he was never ordained as a rabbi. Actually, though, there is a link between Judaism and the law, says Spracker. Jewish studies have a “rich and complex legal literature, which is a good preparation for being an administrative lawyer in D.C.” There’s even a connection to music, since liturgical music and the chanting of the psalms “dovetails with my musical passion,” he says. Spracker has even started taking voice lessons himself at Levine. But he laughs, “When I started the lessons, I said, ‘I promise you’ll never see me performing.’ “ Debra Bruno can be contacted at [email protected].

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