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Progress in science vs. progress in music

In fields such as science and technology, or in medicine, we’re used to achievements that represent Progress, progress that is obvious and indisputable. We do things better than we did before. But in the field of music, Progress has at times been a misleading concept.

Is there such a thing as being a better violinist than Jascha Heifetz, a better cellist than Mstislav Rostropovich, a better teacher than the great teachers of days gone by? I don’t think so. For me as a musician, and as a teacher of music, Progress doesn’t mean getting better than someone else, or better than those who came before, it means getting better than I used to be, and trying to approach the level of those musicians and teachers I admire the most. It means, in other words, getting, in my own way, where others have already gotten. But more on the idea of Progress tomorrow.

A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.