Standing near the Iwo Jima Memorial and Arlington National Cemeter, the Netherlands Carillon has one of the best views in the area, overlooking the Potomac River towards Washington, D.C..

Darshia Allwine

Darshia Portrait

Retiring to a Familiar Tune

For Darshia Allwine, a lifelong musician, retirement has hit all the right notes. After a 32-year career with Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), almost all of it spent at West Springfield Elementary School (ES) as a general music teacher, she’s now in high demand as a pianist for middle school (MS) and high school (HS) choral and theater departments in the county.

When Darshia first retired in 2018, she wasn’t sure what was next or if there’d be much call for her skills as a musician. She didn't have to wonder for long. “I was surprised and overwhelmed at the need schools had for a pianist,” she said. A lifelong area resident, Darshia regularly provides accompaniment for her alma maters Twain MS and Edison HS. Most recently, she tickled the ivories for Edison’s production of Clue.

But her musical career almost got derailed at the start. Two years after beginning piano lessons at age seven, she wanted to quit. Her mother wouldn’t let her, saying, “One day you’ll thank me.” She was right; Darshia thanks her mom every day. Music has afforded her many opportunities, career and otherwise, and provided much enjoyment. She majored in piano at the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music (now Shenandoah University). Along the way, she also learned the flute and piccolo and still plays in a wind ensemble. She’s been giving private piano lessons since she was 17, played in her HS band, been the music director at her church, and more.

Darshia says, “The only thing I know how to do well is play that piano.” In fact, the original piano she learned on still graces her living room. Though it now sits alongside the baby grand she purchased in 2004, which she fondly calls, “the love of my life.” Her other love is being with students. Continuing to serve the school community through her music is a retirement bonus. That’s her retirement advice to others as well: “Find your passion and keep doing it.” Not having to worry about finances helps. Her Virginia Retirement System and Social Security benefits provide for her needs, and thanks to ERFC, she’s able to keep a rainy-day fund for those unexpected expenses that pop up.

find your passion and keep doing it
Darshia at football game.jpg

In addition to her passion for music, Darshia is a proud Washington Commanders fan. With season tickets that have been in the family since 1972, she attends home games with her son and daughter-in-law. And when the team scores a touchdown, Darshia delights the fans in her section with a rousing rendition of the fight song.

Speaking of sports, two of Darshia’s former students went on to pro careers. She taught Michael Caussin, a onetime Washington player, and even got a shout-out from him when she attended the team’s training camp in Richmond. She also taught Joe Saunders, a former major league pitcher. And several past students have gone on to appear in small roles on crime dramas such as Law and Order.

Getting to know multiple generations of students from the same families has been one of the unique benefits of having taught at the same school for most of her career. She’s still in touch with many of them. Being able to use her talents to stay connected with a community so dear to her ensures that Darshia will be making beautiful music for years to come.