Jeff Prezant, a 59-year-old, mild-mannered, polished real estate broker at Cushman & Wakefield, might surprise you when he starts to discuss his passion for music. Case in point: his answer when asked what type of songs he and his bandmates play.
"We're rockers," he said. "We rock out."
Prezant, a veteran broker in the firm's East Rutherford office, hasn't let a busy career get in the way of being an avid guitarist and musician. The pastime started when he was a child, helped him pay for college and continues today, as he plays cover songs in both an organized band and with different groups of family and friends.
"In today's world, you can't just have a band and say everybody has to practice and play," said Prezant, a director in C&W's brokerage services group. "When you're an adult, there's a different way of doing it. People learn their music at home and then they bring it together at a practice, already knowing the songs … Today is about saving time."
The classically trained musician started playing in bands as a teenager in Monmouth County; the skill came in handy while he attended Rider University in the mid-1970s. Prezant formed a four-man group called Johnny and the Holidays — which later evolved into a five-piece band — using bar shows and weekend parties to pay for half of his $6,500-a-year education.
It was a schedule Prezant juggled with an accounting major and part-time work for his father, affording him only a few hours of sleep on the nights he played. He concedes it "was probably too much for my grades to take, but something had to suffer."
And besides, "when you're young … you didn't think — you just did."
Four decades later, Prezant is an accomplished real estate professional in the office, industrial and data center markets. That doesn't mean he is any less devoted to music — mostly pop rock — and he is as passionate about classic rockers such as Eric Clapton and the Allman Brothers as he is about Phillip Phillips and Matchbox 20.
All told, he estimates he spends around 100 hours annually practicing and performing at private parties and venues such as a Jewish community center.
These days, however, it's not always with the same group. The Haworth resident has a core band called "Neshmaya," which has played a handful of shows over the past five years. He also plays with a mix of locals, New Yorkers and seasoned musicians from Israel.
"No one is doing this for money," Prezant said. "We're beyond that. We're playing for the love of playing and performing and making people happy. When you see the audience get up on their feet, and they're applauding and dancing in their seats, that makes you feel good."
The pastime also has become a family affair for Prezant, who now gets to play with his college-age son and teenage niece, he said.
And while performing for 400 people can create some personal tension, Prezant's music also serves the important purpose of giving him a release from the demands of being a commercial real estate broker in New Jersey.
"I'm in another world," he said. "When you're doing something that you're very passionate about, it really puts you in a different place. The stress of work gets mitigated, and the feel-good juices in you are able to come out."