Thoughts + Articles

A Remarkable Teacher

Have you ever studied with a teacher who was willing to remove a roadblock to help you reach your goal?  Did you ever have a teacher who encouraged, inspired, and motivated you to move to the next level?

Where did I meet Professor Peter Zaret?

I met Professor Peter Zaret when I was 17 years old, auditioning for a scholarship to attend Virginia Commonwealth University. He was tall, dark, and handsome, dressed neatly, sitting on the edge of a desk wearing the biggest smile you had ever seen. He instantly put the auditioning students at ease giving them confidence and encouragement. I played well for him and he offered me a full scholarship to the University. I was to play with the Richmond Symphony as part of the scholarship obligation, study and excel in my freshman year courses at VCU, assist Professor Zaret in teaching his adult beginning violin class, and study the violin with Professor Zaret.

I later learned that Professor Zaret was 32 years old. At VCU, Professor Zaret was Assistant Professor of Violin and Chamber music, and 1st violinist of the VCU String Quartet in Richmond, Virginia. He was also Concert Master of the Richmond Symphony. By playing in the Richmond Symphony violin section I could watch and learn how Professor Zaret led his first violin section and played all the solo violin parts.

All the members of Professor Zaret’s Quartet were marvelous musicians, teachers, and award winning musicians. The members were Peter Sacco, 2nd violinist, Leonard Gibbs, violist, and Gisela Depkat, cellist. Their quartet had a rich warm full sound and played beautifully together. On stage they looked like they enjoyed playing together.

What was special about studying with Professor Zaret?

He taught his students how to make beautiful phrases by understand the story line of the music. He taught his students how to phrase each line of music and how to move your bow and connect your vibrato through your fingers.

Professor Zaret taught by example with a beautiful smile and a kind word showing you how to play the musical phrase by playing for you and then asking you to play the phrase back. He was always enthusiastic, inspiring, patient, and helped you get over any roadblocks. His violin playing was beautiful with a rich tone and singing musical phrases.

Professor Zaret  taught how to have continuous vibrato from finger to finger, and helped me play beautiful phrases and pull them out with the bow. He would say, “There are no dead notes in a piece of music.” Professor Zaret would show you how the string vibrated when it makes contact with the bow.  He showed his students how to move the bow in a figure 8 pattern.  He taught me the Delius Violin Sonata, the Bruch Violin Concerto in G minor, and works by J S Bach and had you perform them in public concerts at VCU.

Later I found out that Professor Zaret was born and raised in New York City with his two brothers. His father, Matthew Zaret was a physicist who played the bass and his mother, Lillian Diamond Zaret had studied the piano as a child. His parents filled their home with Classical music.

When Professor Zaret was in kindergarten, at the age of 5 ½, he began taking private violin lessons. He was always fascinated with sound production on the violin and enjoyed studying science.

Professor Zaret said, “His middle brother played cello and his little brother played the violin. Both were very good. One went into the photo copying business and the younger brother became a sports caster.  He says, “He loved sports as a kid and we all played a lot of football and baseball.”

Professor Zaret says, “He adopted his father, Matthew Zaret’s analytical approach to solving problems in teaching and in later years Professor Zaret designed his patented bass bar using his father’s analytical approach.”

While I was studying with Professor Zaret at Virginia Commonweal University, he would go to Washington to have the sound post adjusted in his violin for the best possible sound.  Professor Zaret said, “He would ask a lot of questions.”

He was always striving for each of his students to produce the most beautiful sounds we could on our violins. Sound production on the violin was very important to Professor Zaret.

After receiving his Ph.D., Dr. Zaret opened his first violin shop in his garage to supplement his salary as a Professor at Norfolk State University and as Concert Master of the Norfolk Symphony. He says, “His business grew from there.”

Several years later, “Dr. Zaret explored bass bars for the violin, viola, and cello and he patented how to add them, to make any instrument sound better.”

Dr. Zaret says, “This business is based one big myth that there is a “secret” Stradivarius had. Once I got into the business I realized there is no such thing as an absolute when working with an instrument in the violin family. I can manipulate the bass bar and the thickness’s of the violin to make it sound with more power and at the same time more warmth and richness.”

Professor Zaret said, “The teacher who most inspired him was Joseph Fuchs, a marvelous violinist, who was his violin professor at the Juilliard School where he earned his Bachelor and Masters of Music degree from 1959-1964.

As the year at VCU progressed, Professor Zaret encouraged me to go for my dream of auditioning for the Juilliard School and prepared me for the audition. It was a proud moment for both Professor Zaret and myself when I was awarded a place at the Juilliard School and when I graduated with a Bachelor and Masters degree in Music from the Juilliard School in 1976 and 1977.

For over 40 years Dr. Zaret has inspired, motivated, encouraged, and shared his gift of teaching and performing as a Concertmaster for orchestras and as a college professor with students and audiences across the United States.  With the invention of his “Patented Bass Bar” for violin, viola, cello, and bass Dr. Zaret has made it possible for students, professional musicians, and amateur musicians to purchase an instrument with a fine powerful rich tone at a reasonable price. To learn more about this wonderful legacy of Dr. Zaret and his other inventions for string instruments click on the link below:

What 3 things did Professor Peter Zaret teach his students that benefitted them through their life’s journey?

1) He taught his students to wear a big smile on their faces, have a positive attitude, and he showed his students how to play the passage in question on his violin and asked each one to play it back. He taught them using “the Learning by Example” approach.

2) He taught his students by encouraging, motivating, and inspiring them to do their best work. He was always kind, patient, and compassionate with each student and they knew he cared about them and believed in them. He removed roadblocks from their path and made each of his students believe in themselves.

3) He taught his students to never give up and to strive for a beautiful sound every time they drew their bows across the strings of their violins.

To hear the wonderful artistry of Dr. Peter Zaret on the violin and viola type in Peter Zaret YouTube and you too can enjoy his boundless gift of music!

Dr. Peter Zaret inspired, motivated, encouraged, and removed roadblocks from his students’ paths. Every teacher should leave this legacy.


Madeline Frank, Ph.D., DTM is an Best Selling Author, sought after speaker, business owner, motivational teacher,researcher,and concert artist. She helps businesses and organizations “Tune Up their Businesses”. Her innovative observations show you the blue prints necessary to improve and keep your business successful. She writes a monthly newsletter “Madeline’s Monthly article & Musical Tips Blog” and a monthly radio show “Madeline’s One Minute Musical Radio Show”. She has just published her new book “Leadership On A Shoestring Budget.”

Contact Madeline Frank for your next speaking engagement at

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 15th, 2014 at 2:19 am and is filed under Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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