Jack Zencheck: The Ringo of Procurement Services
“You have to be diligent, on time, and on track,” is how Jack Zencheck describes two important aspects of his life: his day job as Einstein’s associate vice president of business services and his passion for drumming. He’s been at Einstein for 31 years and will retire this July. And, he’s been drumming ever since he heard the Beatles as a young teenager.
At Einstein, Jack is in charge of procurement services, a crucial group of departments comprised of purchasing, e-commerce, accounts payable, receiving, and energy. His team members assure that Einstein runs smoothly on a daily basis.
If he has a tough week of negotiating big contracts, dealing with vendors, or working to make the school more energy efficient, he unwinds at home behind his Stagg drum set.
“I really crank up the music and play,” he said. Pausing a beat, he noted, “The neighbors can even sense it. We’ll sometimes get phone calls and they say, ‘Did Jack have a tough day today? He’s playing louder than usual.’”
He added, “It really does help. The act of playing releases the stress. I’ve made some good decisions while sitting behind my drum set.”
Moved by Music
Jack feels that drumming helps him exercise, release stress, and in some ways, be a kid again. He first wanted to drum after hearing Ringo Starr’s steady rock n’ roll beats on early Beatles’ records. And much like Ringo, Jack’s drumming came from unglamorous beginnings.
“After the Beatles came out, my friends and I wanted to play but we didn’t have a lot of money,” he said.
His dad, a New York City schoolteacher, saved a marching band snare drum from the trash at school and gave it to his son. But he needed cymbals too, so his dad cut them at his side job as a sheet metal contractor.
So Jack learned the drums on a marching band snare drum—which is much larger than a typical snare drum—and sheet metal cymbals, playing along to records by the Four Seasons, Buddy Rich, the Safaris, and the Beatles.
“I obsessed over Ringo, but my favorite drummer was Dave Clark. He was the lead singer and the drummer, and there weren’t many of those,” he said.
When Jack turned 13, he used his bar mitzvah money to buy a full Ludwig drum set, and then things really took off. By then, his friends had electric guitars so they started playing school dances and weddings. The band rehearsed at his house on Long Island and, on at least one occasion, they played so loud the house shook, causing dishes to fall from shelves in the kitchen upstairs.
Though he continued to play during college, he gave up drumming soon after to concentrate on his family and his career.
A Family Vibe
Ten years ago, his daughter’s then fiancé—who plays the bass guitar—asked Jack if he’d join him for a few songs at the wedding. Jack agreed. His family bought him a drum set for Father’s Day.
“Every weekend thereafter my son-in-law and I practiced and we played five songs at the wedding: four Beatles songs and ‘Runaround Sue.’”
He added, “It was Einstein’s very own Cookie Kurtz’s band that let us cut in to play that night.”
Drum Roll, Please
Jack has one philosophy to drumming: don’t hold back. “The louder and harder you play, the better it is. And it’s more fun,” he said.
One person who is not a huge fan of that philosophy is his wife, who is an audiologist. She insisted that Jack wear earplugs while playing along with his cranked-up Beatles records.
“It didn’t quite work how she expected though. When I started playing with the earplugs, she said, ‘Why are you playing so loud?’ I replied, ’Because I can’t hear the music!’”
He added, “I’ve broken so many drumsticks, I bought some solid oak ones. I can’t break those.”
Nowadays, the 66-year-old mostly plays along to the records of his youth, occasionally jamming with his son-in-law or teaching his grandchildren, who like to climb all over his kit.
“When I retire, I’d love to get together with a bunch of guys my age and play the old stuff,” he said. “That would be fun.”
With his last days at Einstein approaching, hopefully Jack will have some takers who will come together so he can play the music he loves any time at all. Jack will no doubt be glad all over and the Beatles would certainly approve!
Posted on: Thursday, June 27, 2019