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Sharon Grubin has held just three jobs since graduating from Boston University School of Law in 1973. The Smith College alumna started out as a litigator, handling major cases for White & Case, then in 1984 became a U.S. magistrate in New York City. Since 2000, she has been the top attorney for the Metropolitan Opera, which attracts some 800,000 audience members to more than 200 performances a year at Lincoln Center in New York City and entertains millions more via radio and television broadcasts and audio and video recordings. Despite her high-flying positions, Grubin, 56, claims her greatest achievement is earning A’s in music theory classes she’s taken in recent years at The Juilliard School at Lincoln Center. “I’m an honors student,” she says. You’ve had two direction changes in your career. What motivated each? I love the law but came to feel that, as a litigator, I wasn’t really doing it. Instead, I was focusing on minuscule details of litigation tactics — spending an entire day before a judge doing 30 or 40 motions or filing endless affidavits, for example. I looked into becoming a judge and eventually, through bar association activities, heard of openings, applied, and was hired. When I was nearing the end of my second eight-year term, I realized that if I did one more, I’d never have the chance to do something very different with my life. How did you land at the Met? My other great love is music — despite the fact that I have no talent for it — and I wanted to be a part of that world. Do you have favorite operas? The truth is, it depends on so much: the performance, who the performers are, how you’re feeling that night, how much you know about the opera. Taking music theory has made listening to music so much more rewarding for me. How do music studies relate to the law? Both are about logical progressions. In music, you start with the theme; in law, with the facts. Then things get more complicated. Whether you’re composing a musical work or preparing for trial, you’re assembling a succession of events to create a surprise. Where’s your office at the Met? It’s near the dress circle of the opera house. When I’m in the building, I’m always aware of the buzz of activity. Stagehands are shifting sets; the various shops are making everything you see on stage; musicians are rehearsing. I might go somewhere to pick up a file and pass soprano Ren�e Fleming practicing in one room or James Levine conducting the orchestra in another. Do you feel a sense of history? Certainly. Here’s one example: A request to photograph for publication the murals that Marc Chagall created for our lobby in 1966 meant I had to dig up old files. They contained letters in French from Chagall himself. It’s extraordinary, but it’s also all in a day’s work. Your job must be multifaceted. The phone rings constantly, and I never know what the next issue will be. We have 3,000 employees, 18 unions and 21 collective bargaining agreements, so employment issues and labor law are part of the job. I deal with contracts galore and, of course, intellectual property, tax, real estate, trusts and estates, and fund-raising matters — along with anything else you can think of. We obtain close to 200 visas a year for our foreign artists, a process that has become far more time-consuming since 9/11. I also handle corporate governance; though Sarbanes-Oxley doesn’t apply to nonprofits like the Met, we have relevant provisions in place because we think they’re good practices. What’s the Met’s bottom line? Artistry comes before money. Our people, our productions are among the best in the world. When the curtain goes up at eight o’clock, that’s what it’s all about.

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