Zack’s Story

Hi, I’m Zack.

I’ve been playing drums full-time for over 20 years—in bands, musical productions, classrooms, clinics, and in my private studio here in Santa Cruz.

My first drumset was a kick, snare, and garbage can lid. Yes, an actual trash can lid! It wasn’t much, but I had discovered rock and punk, thanks to a mixed tape my sister made me. Even back in sixth grade I knew I was going to spend my life playing music and although I had no idea how to play a lick, I was determined to learn.

Flash forward to college: A friend told me that, if I learned jazz, I could play anything. Having spent much of my teens going to punk shows at the legendary 924 Gilman in Berkeley, I turned my attention to the great jazz drummers and started playing with any local player I could find. Things took another turn when I joined a Santa Cruz ska band—one that quickly moved from playing backyards to selling out Santa Cruz’s biggest clubs. Over the next eight years, we recorded three albums and toured the US, Europe and Japan. (In fact, we reunite every couple of years, packing venues from San Francisco to L.A.)

Between tours, I was still an avid student, working with master drummers Peter Magadini, Eddie Marshall and Dave Black. I even became a teacher myself and immediately found a passion for helping new players find their feet; in contrast to my first teacher, who had mocked me for wanting to learn my favorite punk songs. I found that I could teach fundamentals through the music my students were into. To this day, I believe that lessons should be fun, creative and inspiring. That’s what keeps me in my studio—typically for over 50 hours a week.

I continue to balance my teaching career with professional gigs around the Bay Area. I’ve performed with Cabrillo Stage and Shakespeare Santa Cruz, taught at Kuumbwa Jazz Camp and worked behind the scenes at the Monterey Jazz Festival. (Oh, and in 2017 I was a tech on Fred Armisen’s Netflix special Standup for Drummers.) Once in a while I host a clinic or a guest teacher, giving the community the chance to get up close and personal with living legends ranging from Mark Guiliana to Bernard Purdy.

My wife and two daughters are at least as passionate about music as I am. In our home something is always playing, whether it’s Carmen McRae, Stevie Wonder or The Swmr’s. I do what I love and I know how transformative music can be. All you need is desire and drive—and maybe someone to show you where to put your hands and feet.