Ensuring the Show Goes On

stephanie jacqueney smiling at the camera wearing a blue blouse in front of a marbled gray background

The precision with which 38 Rockettes on stage individually perform 160 eye-high kicks in unison in every show is stunning. Audiences are mesmerized, never thinking about the lawyers behind the scenes who enable this extraordinary entertainment with their own precision and discipline.

“If you’re involved in the production of live or taped shows, you’re dealing with contracting, music rights, film rights, intellectual property, and union/labor issues,” says Stephanie Jacqueney, G’82, L’82, who spent more than two decades as Vice President of Legal and Business Affairs for Madison Square Garden. Jacqueney didn’t learn all that she needed to know in law school. But it didn’t matter.

“I didn’t take a copyright class, but I did learn how to read a statute and cases, and how to be analytical. That’s what matters,” says Jacqueney, who has been a member of the College of Law’s Board of Advisors since 2020. She entered law school with a strong interest in public policy, drawn to Syracuse because she could obtain both a J.D. and a Master’s from the Maxwell School. She had worked in human services and intended “to save the world and do something in the public interest.” But the compensation from those jobs generally can’t pay off law school debt. So, she headed to corporate law.

While at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, she worked on a case involving a prominent singer in a dispute against her manager. Jacqueney found her first venture in entertainment law “fascinating.” At Manhattan Cable TV, a Time Warner subsidiary where she was General Counsel, she struck the balance between general legal work and lobbying/public policy. Then came Madison Square Garden, with its TV productions, Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Super Bowl, and other stadium halftime shows. She handled agreements for Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Gloria Estefan, and other entertainers.

It wasn’t the glamour of it all that fascinated her. It was the complexity of legal issues and the need for creative and rapid solutions. She cites the example of one Super Bowl Halftime show threatened by a copyright infringement accusation. “In this case, the set design included hundreds of feather flags. Just days before the scheduled show, someone claimed to have a copyright on the flag design,” she recalls. There was no time to fight the claim in court. She recommended giving the designer an acknowledgment in the post-show credits. Problem solved. After all, the show must go on.

Similarly, it took an army of lawyers, flight engineers, safety, and insurance personnel to successfully pull off Diana Ross’ helicopter exit after her Super Bowl Halftime performance before 100,000 fans at Tempe Arizona Stadium. “We spent weeks working on making those few seconds happen,” says Jacqueney. The event has since been hailed as one of the greatest Super Bowl Halftime exits ever!

Though her work with Madison Square Garden was fulfilling, it was all-consuming. “I was moonlighting as the mother of triplets.” When her two sons and daughter were in high school planning their college moves, their mom made her own, setting up her own consulting firm. It gave her the flexibility she needed
to help her kids make their transitions.

Her triplets excelled in college (two at Syracuse University and the third at the University of Miami) and Jacqueney still laughs at the memory of coordinating with her husband, Mark Edelstein, for their presence at their triplets’ convocations and commencements, all scheduled for the same weekend. “It was all about logistics.” She made it happen. After all, the show must go on.

Jacqueney’s clients include ABC/Disney and skating rink operators in iconic locations such as Central Park. Her career trajectory stands as a model for young lawyers who might feel stuck. “If you’re analytical, diligent, and work hard, you can change gears. Take a CLE. Seize opportunities. The truth of the matter is that I fell into this specialty.”