Jack East was born in Paeroa on 25 October, 1944.
He was educated at Sacred Heart College, Auckland from 1955-62 and enrolled at University of Auckland from 1963 to 1966, graduating BSc in 1967.
From 1969-71 Jack worked as science teacher in Melbourne, and sang with the Melbourne Chorale. He worked in London as a freelance arranger and accompanist from 1972-5 and also as a teacher. Here, he sang with the London Choral Society, which is now known as the London Chorus.
Jack returned to NZ in 1975 and resumed teaching at Wellington High School, then Auckland Grammar School from 1977. He undertook part-time studies at the University of Auckland, graduating BMus 1980 and MMus 1983, specialising in composition and electro-acoustic music.
After completing his studies with at the University of Auckland, Jack worked in a number of music-related roles. He was appointed head of music at Auckland Grammar in 1980, taking leave from this position May-October 1982 to work as Composer-in-Schools. He accompanied performing music groups from the school to Singapore 1985, Japan 1987, Australia 1988, California 1990 and Britain 1991.
Notably, he was the Secretary of CANZ 1980-1 and President 1984-5. In 1986 Jack travelled to Taiwan to represent NZ composers at the Asian Composers League, one of the most important compositional forums in the Asia-Pacific region.
He was conductor of Auckland Secondary Schools Orchestra 1984-8; Musical Director of Hamilton Music School 1982-5 and 1988; assisted with the setting up of the Hamilton Music School Trust in 1988; Guest conductor of the Auckland Symphony Orchestra for seasons in 1986 and 1988. In 1991 he became head of Music at Westlake Girls High School.