He came to America at 16 and settled in Pittsburgh. He planned in the old country to stay here only about three years, earn plenty of money, and return home. He joined several bands and played for dances, weddings, picnics, and home parties. Then he began to teach other orchestras and to arrange simple pieces. When the teacher of his singing society quit, the members prevailed upon him to undertake teaching the choir. From then on, he was teaching the tamburitza, orchestras and other singing societies and was arranging music for both.
After playing with the famous concert touring tamburitza orchestra "Zvonimir" for five years, he married Anna Ivanusich and they settled in Chicago. Here he rented a place for tambura manufacturing, and besides arranging music, began making tamburas. His work received overwhelming approval.
All the work of manufacturing instruments and issuing music dangerously affected his heart. Doctors warned him to slow down so he sold his shop to his cousin, and dedicated himself entirely to arranging and printing music. The demand for this was growing. After 23 years of yearning to return to his homeland, he and his wife spent five months in Yugoslavia.
After returning home, the days of dark depression were everywhere. He went to Michigan and bought a house where he could continue to work by mail with his music customers throughout the country. The town was Bradley. Then the second World War came and orchestras disbanded. To arrange and print this music for a smaller and smaller number with growing costs in everything due to the war, the outputs were a constant loss. Realizing the futility in this line of work, Cernkovich decided to sell his home and find another line of business. After rigid examination by the Civil Service Commission, he was appointed Postmaster of Bradley, Michigan. During his free time he still kept up his work on issuing music.
He has arranged more than 1000 songs, including his own melodies, work of other composers, and public domain folk tunes he knew as a child. His right hand in this endeavor was his wife, who was carrying one load while he carried another and inspiring him when he was down and low. His lyrics are sentimental and romantic in nature, which is perhaps because of the breaking away from his family in early life. He said that if he had chosen some other career it would probably have been more gainful, but this way he has friends in every native community of many lands through his music -- and this has more value.