Checklist: nice sound, clean articulation, agreeable intonation, dynamic contrasts, good phrasing, etc. Everything's O.K. All of these basics continue to be the goals and the benchmarks for winning jobs. When well executed, they are definitely impressive and win points and big bucks.
I heard something the other day, however that struck me. That music "gave me chills" was the comment. That evaluation came from more than just well-executed mechanics. (Actually there were a few flaws in the performance, but it didn't stop the chilling.) How do you teach chills? I don't remember a "Chills 101" at Eastman. Well-played basics don't necessarily move the spirit. It involves more than the sum total of all of those vital requirements of great performances. Something in the performer(s) provides that spark that penetrates right to the core of the listener and pierces the very soul. The mind can be reached, but what about the heart? It is not one or the other, but the right blend of both.
Something is missing when perfection is the only goal. Satisfaction must be deeper than the appreciation of technical mastery alone. That must be the starting point upon which the artist must then pour out his heart as intended by the composer, no more and no less.
The question is, which comes first, inspiration or perspiration? I think inspiration fuels perspiration. Very hard work has the goal of providing as many "chills" as possible. Each composition has it's thrilling and magical moments. Great performances should serve many on a regular basis. They come in many packages and will impact listeners in different ways. Communication of something that is not average, boring, or lifeless is the key. Artists are gifted to grasp that and just do it. Training needs to trend in this direction.
Fundamentals can be taught. Fantastic life-changing musical communication is rare and is much more difficult to learn. Many can hear and appreciate it, but few do it. The fun challenge in making music and in preparing to perform music, is the high calling of captivating listeners with the greatness that the masters intended. And it begins by being captivated ourselves.