Aging Well: A musical life

This biweekly column is sponsored by The Mather in Tysons, Virginia, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better.

People who love their work are more likely to be happy, healthy, and optimistic. That’s good news for Helen Fall of Annandale, whose passion for music and teaching has translated into a fulfilling career.

If you’ve attended local symphony performances, you’ve likely heard Helen. She’s played viola in the Fairfax Symphony for 30 years, the Alexandria Symphony for nearly 32 years, and the Arlington Symphony (where she served as principal viola for 20 years). “The two symphonies (Fairfax and Alexandria) occasionally have conflicting dates for performances, so I have to choose between them,” Helen says. She has also performed in numerous chamber ensembles, including Argonne String Quartet and Fairfax Chamber Ensemble, and has been engaged as a soloist. But her passion is teaching young violin and viola students.

Playing and teaching violin and viola is a fulfilling career for Helen Fall, who’s played with the Fairfax Symphony and Alexandria Symphony for 30 plus years.

“I know so many people who are excited about retirement, but I don’t see myself stopping,” Helen says. “I’m so excited by what I do.” In fact, she and her husband Bob are preparing for a move next spring to The Mather, a Life Plan Community for those 62 and better that is opening in 2024 in Tysons. After the move, Helen will continue to work: “We’re moving into a large two-bedroom apartment, and one bedroom will be my music studio so I can continue teaching,” she says.

Moving to The Mather “was an easy decision,” according to Helen. “We thought it looked perfect — we’re moving in younger than we had planned, but we can’t pass this up — the opportunity to live in a new building, in a community like this. We’d talked about moving to D.C. to be close to everything.” She hopes to get together with other musicians living at The Mather. “Some of us have been in contact already, and are talking about playing together.”

In the meantime, Helen has a full schedule. Her summers are busy, as she works with high school students to get them ready for regional auditions at the beginning of the school year.

As of spring 2023, she has 14 students, though she tries to cap the number at 12. “I’m really proud of my students — they’re amazing kids. I get to see each of them every week for years; it’s almost like being a parent. One student who just graduated high school has been with me for nine years!”

Helen also does a lot of freelance coaching in high schools. All area schools have to perform in district assessments each year — their orchestra, band, and choir — where they are rated. “I’m hired by individual teachers to coach their sectionals,” she explains. “I do quite a bit of this type of coaching. Like a lot of musicians, I juggle a little of this and a little of that — there’s a wonderful energy to it.”

Her passion for teaching, coaching, and playing music prove that in building her life’s work, Helen is hitting all the right notes.

The Mather in Tysons, VA, for those 62 and better, is a forward-thinking Life Plan Community that defies expectations of what senior living is supposed to be. It opens in 2024.