John (Jack) Joseph Zei of Simsbury, CT passed away Monday morning, July 30th of a lingering illness. Jack was born in 1931 in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, son of the late John and Anna (Printz) Zei. He spent his childhood in Stevens Point where he developed his passion for hunting and fly fishing, nurtured by his father and many uncles and cousins. He was also blessed with a beautiful voice and began to study at a young age. He began his singing career in 1949 when he wont 20th Century Fox District Auditions in Milwaukee.
?After graduation he received his undergraduate degree from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, doing further study at the University of Wisconsin. He then served two years in the Korean War.
?Continuing his education he enrolled at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he met and married his opera coach, Joyce, who was also a student at U of M.
?Jack was invited to join the faculty at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. Besides being a vocal teacher, he was given the job of starting a mens chorale group. At the first audition only a handful showed up so Jack took it upon himself to visit every dorm and fraternity house looking for recruits, after which over 70 young men auditioned and became members of “The New Hampshire Men” touring the whole of New England, as well as regularly performing concerts at the college.
?No interest in Opera was to found in Durham so Jack joined the faculty at the University of Nebraska where they were looking to create an opera program. He built an opera program at the university that received national attention and was recognized as Outstanding Teacher of the School of Music.
?In 1973 he was called to Hartford, CT and asked to re-start the opera program at the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford. He was the Chair of the Hartt Opera and Artistic Director of the Hartt Opera Music Theater and started a summer musical theater which always packed the house.
?He was a beloved and respected teacher to his students, loving directing opera as well as teaching. He was also coordinator for the compramario roles and chorus for Connecticut Opera and taught many summers at the Interlochen Academy of Arts in Michigan.
?Jack pursued directional studies at The Staatsopher and Gartnerplatz Theater in Munich, West Germany. He was a resident baritone with Toledo Opera Association, Dallas Light Opera and Omaha Civic Opera.
?Jack was a member of Pi Kappa Lambda, MENC, Central Opera Service, The Metropolitan Opera Guild, , ST. Mary’s Church, Metecom Gun Club, Trout Unlimited and the American Legion.
?Jack was also an active member of the University of Hartford Senate for many years, utilizing his vast knowledge and experience on behalf of the University and was a chairman of the U of H Ameritii Professors Association when he retired.
?Jack loved family, leaving his wife Joyce, son Jack III (Lori) Zei, and daughter Joan (Bill) Healy, many cousins, former students and a host of friends.
?Visitation will be held on Thursday, August 2nd from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM at the Vincent Funeral Home, 880 Hopmeadow Street in Simsbury. Services will be private. Please visit Jack’s “Book of Memories” at www.vincentfuneralhome.com for online condolences.