The musician performer has to function at an extremely high level. Not only to achieve that level, but also to sustain it for decades.
A lot of concentration is put on fingers, on pitch, on just remembering notes, and learning rhythms, and external things, and the breath can quickly become a victim of many of those things.
The importance of breath in playing would seem obvious to almost anyone, but oddly it's not the greater part of most any woodwind teacher's standard method of teaching.
For woodwind players,maintaining the quality of breath - monitoring that quality of breath throughout the day - is actually not only helpful to playing, but it's greatly helpful in the long run to general attitude and concentration, because you are to maintain an open-and-up alert psycho-physical state of the self.
The more you're able to do that, the more open you will be to remembering complicated physical and mental motions and concepts -- meaning learning music -- but you'll also hopefully be able to solve problems in your own life. It's a position from which you can have an advantage in many, many, many different situations.
A musician has to use this highest form of self-awareness to do incredibly subtle things for a long period of time. And misuse anywhere in the course of a day, unnoticed, is already a potential danger to your career and your health. Certainly to your musical abilities.
So peak mastery is not only becoming good, but being able to efficiently maintain that level of playing. How much does practicing and performing take out of you? How sustainable and efficient is your skill at performing?
If you're working hard to achieve good performance it's difficult to discern whether that's just a lack of practice in general, or improper practice techniques and habits, or an extension of continual misuse. In other words, that you're overriding incredible, yet useless, tensions.
So your own awareness develops a kind of a blindness, sort of holes in self perception, and you exert a force toward a goal while not having the tools you need to get there tuned, in balanced form.
And therefore, the struggle to accomplish the goal becomes much greater. So it does not mean that you are not a master, it means that you are not at peak mastery.
Peak mastery is sort of a gyroscopic freedom from any unnecessary self-created resistance to the already difficult task of accomplishing highly subtle emotions and very rich, complex, conceptual understanding, and then adding the two together into an extremely complex and subtle experience for both performer and listener.
Would you like to share practice ideas with other musicians? You could do so at the Practice Café.