How does one become the greatest musician possible? How does one achieve success in such a difficult and demanding profession?
I am a professional musician, a violist and teacher. Achieving success for me in both of these areas has been a rewarding path and also an extremely challenging one. In my own playing I strive for absolute excellence and freedom. In an ideal performance I am free physically and spiritually to BE the music, completely. I can listen, and react, and be. That is my goal for my own playing, and for my students as well.
We must have control of all aspects of our playing—intonation, rhythm, phrasing inflections, character, articulation, cleanliness, coordination, and so on, to the point that we no longer need to focus our attention on our playing. We are completely free to respond to the sounds. We can just be.
Building technical mastery, then, is a critical element of developing as a violist. This involves concentrated work on the "basics," as Miss DeLay called them: scales, arpeggios, bowing exercises, vibrato, shifting, and so on. Likewise, building a similar kind of "musical" mastery is equally critical. This means developing a strong conception of what we want to hear: for example how tension is built and released within a phrase; or within a piece; the articulations appropriate to Bach and to Bartok; the tension of sound required for Shostakovich, and the ease and freedom necessary for Schubert.
Perhaps the most important component in developing as a player is the need to achieve excellence. I am most successful as a teacher when I can guide someone who has the unquenchable desire to excel.