THE INSTITUTE OF TEXAN CULTURES
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
INTERVIEW WITH: Carla Hastings , L'Orchestre des Enfants
DATE: August 6, 1987
PLACE: Folklife Festival, 1987, O.H. Office , ITC
INTERVIEWER: Al Lowman
L: I have some residual French to have some idea of the
correct pron~unciation of your organization, but what do you
call it in Texas?
H: L'Orchestre des Enfants.
L: Speak up just a l ittle bit because I ...
H: L'Orchestre des Enfants.
L: And you are based where?
H: Austin, Texas.
L: And the organization has been in existence since when?
H: Oh! Ouite a few years. Some of these children are
about 10 now and started taking violin lessons at 2, so it's
about 8 or 9 years.
L: And, are these from a particular school, or a
particular teacher, or is this organization from a number
and variety of backgrounds.?
H: I have Hastings School of Music in Austin and I've had
several instructors over the years. And what happened is we
have many little tiny violinists and they had no where to
H: play. And they had no groups in school, they had no
civic groups to play in, so we just formed our own little
And so we started when these children were really very,
very small. It's turned over about once or twice actually,
since the beginning. We've had some in there as young as 3
years old in the Orchestra.
L: And so you organized when? When was the first time you
ever played together in a public performance?
H: Probably about 1980.
L: 1980, you say?
L: And where have you made some of your appearances?
H: We've hit every mall in Austin and we're priviledged to
have the only musical children's group that was invited to
the sesquicentennial festival in Houston in 1986 and so we
performed several times there. And 4 of our members got to
play with the original Texas Playboys, so they really had a
good time . The Playboys behind them and giant speakers,
stole the show, of course.
L: And generally speaking, what does your repertoire
consist - what kind of music do you play in general?
H: Basically, we're classical. You'd never know it by
what we've played today. And we - some of the children knew
just a couple of fiddle tunes but when 1986 rolled around,
we informed them all that they were going to have to play
fiddle if they were going to live in Texas, so we learned a
H: fiddle repertoire for 1986 and we also had outfits that
were period costumes for our 1986 performances.
So every performance in 1986 was fiddle. And the
fiddle performances went over so well, that we ' ve continued
playing fiddle in most of our public performances. Although
a lot of them do play classical, but generally for smaller,
sit- down type audiences.
L: Do you find much of an audience for - where do you find
your audiences then for classical music when you play
H: Oh, for instance, in '86 is where we played in the
Caswell House in Austin and that's a restored old home and
it was chamber music type program and we were just one of
the groups that played chamber. Of course, our chamber was
a little lighter than most of the other chamber, but ••. and
you know, they've played in a lot of recitals and things.
And there's a lot of opportunity for that.
L: Now is everybody, does everyone in the group play
violin, or fiddles, or do we have, do have any violas,
cellos, double basses, uh
H: If you notice the size of our children you'll know why
we play violins. Many of these children started out with a
16th size violin which is only 14 inches long and there's
just maybe 3 or 4 of them who are into full-size violins at
this point. And in order to go into a viola or cello, you
need to have a larger hand.
L: But when you play at the Caswell House, for example, is
L: it a violin ensemble with piano accompaniment, or is it
H: Right, our piano takes the viola and cello parts some
of the time. And so she's always filled in.
L: And, are there other opportunities for classical music
performance other than things such as functions at the
H: Well, there's a fairly nice old folks home in Austin
that has a birthday party each month for their residents and
they enjoy anything that we do for them, so sometimes we're
more classical when we perform in places like that. It
depends on the audience.
I would say the greater audience in Texas likes the
L: When was the first time, then, your group ever played
fiddle music? Was that at the outset of the
H: Right. It was its beginning in 1986. We played folk
tunes, you know. That was in our repertoire because a lot
of the easier violin pieces have to be folk tunes, so a lot
of those fit into a fiddle repertoire. But we had basically
been straight classical.
L: And then, so far as your appearances as fiddlers are
concerned where do you find most of those opportunities, at
Folklife Festivals and, what were you telling me about
H: Like the sesquicentennial celebration on San Jacinto
H: day in Houston and folklife festivals, aqua festivals,
you know, malls. At Christmastime of course, we play
Christmas music mixed with our folk music. And we play at
some of the larger hotels when they have their parties, and
things. We're guest performers in the lobby and, you know,
we don't have any trouble finding places to play. It's a
matter of picking and choosing. The children can only stand
so much performance. We try to limit ourself to once a
L: What gave you the idea for forming a group like this?
Would you tell of other instances where it had been done.
H: Basically, as I said, when I started Hastings School of
Music, I was catering to the younger student because I felt
that there was great opportunity there and I, myself, had
been a very young performer. And so I thought nothing of a
3 or 4 year old performing because I had done it myself.
And I found after some of the children were quite good at
not only the violin but some of these children play the
piano extremely well. But there was no where for them to
go. they were playing at their lesson and that was it. And
so I thought that they needed comeraderie of other children
that could do some more things then. They form some really
strong friendships in the orchestral group. We have a
Dallas person who had to come back and play with us today
and tomorrow because she didn't want to miss the
performance. So we have a lot of that going on. They just
really enjoy each other.
H: They like performing and sometimes we play in really
neat places like ice cream festivals where you can eat all
the ice cream you can have.
L: What are some of your future performances scheduled?
H: KLRN has an ice cream festival coming up in September,
and that's our September performance. That's why I happened
to mention ice cream, because then they can eat all they
want. And that's quite a laid back type performance because
they can play a few songs and then they can go get what they
want and check out the booths and then they come back about
an hour later and play another 10 or 15 minutes and then
they go get more ice cream. So it's a really fun-packed
afternoon for them.
L: Do you have any "hang back" performers in your group?
Or are they all pretty much "hams"?
H: I think their middle name is "ham". You can tell by
looking at these 2 sitting by the wall that they're shy,
L: They're nodding their heads, "no".
H: They've been performing a long time. And you have to
understand that when you have children they're not like
adults. Adults are always afraid they're going to make a
mistake. Children are always anxious to have their turn.
You know, "When is it my turn?", and so that's how it's
presented to them. "Now, it's your turn, you get to play".
And so, you noticed, even today, when they played duets they
didn't act like they were afraid or anything. They were
H: happy to play the duets. They would have been happy to
play solos, but we just didn't have enough time to go
through the group one by one.
L: At least not in the limit they are in, the 30 minute
time. It might get kind of warm, too.
H: It's terribly difficult playing in the outdoor
performances. It's hard because they don't hear each other
on the stage. On the stage you hear virtually nothing.
It's the person next to you a little tiny bit. They have to
watch very carefully and listen to the piano very carefully.
And stay with the piano as best they can because they don't
hear the g roup as a whole, like the audience does in front.
And there's been places we've played where the
acoustics were so bad. Where no one could hear anybody
except themselves. And that makes it extremely difficult.
They've learned a lot of stage presence.
L: What is the worst acoustics that you've ever played
H: It will be a nameless hotel in Austin (laughter). It's
a georgous hotel but •..
L: A new nameless hotel, or an old nameless hotel?
H: A new nameless hote, with ______ _ and things in it.
It is a georgous place, I have to say . And it was
beautiful. We were treated beautifully, but it's got the
worst acoustics in the world as far as the stage is
concerned. They can hear us about 30 stories. You can be
H: standing somewhere in the hotel and you can hear
perfectly well. But it makes it extremely difficult to
perform in circumstances like that.
L: What's the most interesting or hilarious thing that has
happed to you in the course of a performance?
H: Hilarious. Can you think of an hilarious stituation?
L: Or a memorable one.
H: I dropped their bow. Oh, people are alway dropping
their violins and things like that. You have to understand
that I tell them that when they get on the stage, if they
don't do things right, they're "dead meat". (laughter)
L: And that doesn't make them nervous?
H: So go up there and have a good time. I have said that.
You know, I'm always kidding around with them. And I tell
them if they don't do things r ight I'm going to break their
hands, and •.• today I threatened to take away their food
coupons if they wouldn't smile and they would have to go out
there in the heat and have nothing to drink. So, you see, I
do have a lot of fun with them. When people have heard me
talk to them before they've gone on the stage, they've
looked at me with shocked looks on their faces because they
can't understand why I would say things like that. But they
know me pretty well. (laughter)
I have to say I've been very proud of them. They go up
there and they perform and they do what they're supposed to
do. In Houston the temperature was in the high 90's when we
played. The stage was painted black. We had no cover over
H: the stage and we had a one hour performance. And some
of the little girls were wearing jelly shoes. And they
virtually blistered the bottoms of their feet standing on
that stage. And none of those children gave any inkling
that their feet were burning. The only thing that they
wouldn't do is bow twice at the end; instead of taking the
second bow, they just took off.
L: You rushed to get your Dr. Schol's foot pads on.
H: You know, I really felt sorry for them and we had
another performance about 2 hours later and those children
with their burned up feet went right smack back up on that
stage and performed again.
They are real troupers.
L: You have tubs of ice water, then, setting there for
them to soak their feet.
H: No, we didn't. And then the shuttles didn't come and
so we had to wait for hours and hours on end to get out of
the park, so that was quite an experience. We were the only
L: only after it was over with (laughter)
Well, shall we talk to somebody else here? We'll let
her go over and sit there. Why don't you come over and sit
there and I'll ask you a couple of questions - or 2 or 3 or
Tell me, did you ever bust an E string while you were
up on stage performing?
Child's Voice: No.
L: Never anything like that?
CV: No, I've only busted a D string at home.
L: Was that while you were carrying it or while you were
CV: Playing. Practicing.
L: And, oh, by the way, what is your name?
CV: Nedra Ellison.
L: Nedra Ellison.
What kind of music do you like to play?
E: Oh, I like jazz.
L: You like jazz. I see.
E: Cause I can't play much of it.
L: Because you can't play much of it. Are you going to
become more proficient in jazz? Is that the direction your
career is going to take?
L: Maybe. Do you enjoy classical or .••
E: Classical. I play mostly classical.
L: I see. And what do you think about playing the kind of
music that you were playing out here awhile ago?
E: I think it's interesting.
L: Interesting. Well, that's about as non-commital a
statement as I could imagine. That means you're neither
enthu ••. real turned on about it, but you're not really
down on it either. It's fun , huh? How long have you been
with the group?
E: Oh, about two years.
L: Starting from scratch, huh?
E: Uh, huh.
L: Do you remember any particular concert that you have
participated in that really kinda stands out in your
E: Well, let's see. the Marriott in Austin, we played
there and I liked their food and I liked the place.
L: You all expect to eat after you perform?
E: No. We didn't expect to.
L: But you did.
L: I see. Is this your first time at the Texas Folklife
E: Yes, sir.
L: Have you been here long enough to kinda get into it?
To find out , you know, whether it's gonna be any fun?
E: Yes, sir.
L: You think it will be? Let's see. You'll only be here
today and tomorrow? Well, I hope you have a real good time
while you're here.
E: I do, too.
L: Well, I bet you will. Well, let's see, let's get the
next one up here and ask a question or two.
And would you tell us what your name is?
J: My name is Jennifer Waddell.
L: Jennifer Waddell. And did I get the, a minute ago, you
live in Dallas now? How long have you been in Dallas?
J: One month.
L: One month. Well, how long had you been a student over
at the Hastings School before you left?
I don't know. I can't remember.
You don't know how old you were when you started?
I got a violin for some birthday.
Oh, for a birthday.
A birthday present.
L: You weren't born with it. I see. What kind of music
do you especially enjoy?
J: I like the fiddle.
L: You like the fiddle.
J: Yeah, I like fiddle music.
L: How about classical? Are you very enthusiastic about
J: I like some of it. I like stuff that I can play fast.
L: Stuff that you can play fast? I see. Well, fiddle
music and country and western music and bluegrass music is
plenty fast isn't it? And you can keep up with it alright?
L: Well, that's neat. Do you have a school like this in
Dallas? Is the Hastings method taught in Dallas, do you
J: I don't know. Next week I have an audition for a youth
orchestra, but that's all I know as far as the orchestra.
And we're looking for a teacher.
L: What was the funniest or most memorable thing that ever
L: happened to you when you were in a performance?
J: I don't know. I think the most memorable performance
was when we went to Houston because it was a lot of fun and
there was a lot of stuff to go and do. And we just had a
real good time.
L: OK. Well, let's talk to this young man over here. And
your name is ••.
B: Benjamin Hastings.
L: Benjamin Hastings. I see. And what do you think you
have gained most from being a part of a group like this?
What's been the biggest benefit for you? Or do you think
there is any?
B: Really, I don't think there is any so far.
L: Do you enjoy making music?
L: Do you like classical, or what kind of music do you
like? Classical, jazz, country and western; what's your
B: I guess fiddle, cowboy, country.
L: About how many hours a day do you usually wind up
practicing? Or is that an embarrassing question to ask here
in front of the teacher?
B: Well, actually ...
L: So she alreay knows?
B: Yeah. Well, most days probable about 10 minutes. Some
days a half hour.
L: Other than that, what would, say would be a good
B: Ten minutes.
L: I see. What are you looking forward to right now as
far as your musical career is concerned? Do you want to
just keep on playing the fiddle, or
B: I expect to stop sometime, but just keep on playing
until finally I just don't feel like it.
L: Do you enjoy playing in public?
B: Yes. I pretty much do.
L: Does it ever make you nervous or butterflies in your
B: No, it never has.
L: Is it because you're playing in a group and there are
others up there on the stage, you know, kinda like to cover
up any mistakes you might make or anything like that? Do
those things bother you?
B: No. I've played alone before.
L: You have. In front of an audience?
B: Yeah. I played a solo by myself.
L: Well, that's neat. Thank you much. I'll talk to you
now for a minute. And your name is ...
LH: Lela Hastings.
L: Lela Hastings. So how long have you been with the
LH: You mean the orchestra?
L: Yeah. Since the beginning?
LH: I played the violin in it first and then I quit and
LH: then I started playing the piano for it about two years
L: What's your purpose in playing the violin and the
piano? Would you rather play the violin or rather play the
LH: I usually play the piano more but I didn't like playing
L: Well , that's pretty versatile. There is a bit of
difference between p laying the piano and the violin and as
between classical and other kinds of music what is your
preference as far as music is concerned?
LH: I usually go more toward fiddle on the violin and
usually go more towards classical on the piano.
L: What do you think ••. how do you feel about public
LH: Oh, I like them. I find they are interesting.
L: Are you planning to continue then with music seriously
or is it, you know, sort of a hobby with you?
LH: Oh, I think I'll probably continue with it and perform
L: Would you think of ever making it a career or just
something to amuse yourself?
LH: Oh, I don't know.
L: What ..• let's see, out here on the stage awhile ago,
were you playing the piano?
LH: Uh, huh.
L: You were doing the accompanying? And, is that what
you'd rather be doing?
LH: Other than playing the violin , you mean?
L: Uh, huh.
LH: Well, I don't know. Somethimes I do play the violin
and play something, one or two songs maybe, at performances.
I like them both.
L: Any interesting recollections that you have, any
experiences that you have had, that you would like to share
LH: No, not really.
L: Have you ever been to the Folklife Festival before at
all, just as a visitor?
L: This is the first time all around.
LH: Uh, huh.
L: Well, we're mighty glad to have you all with us. I
hope you all enjoy it and I know all your perforamnces are
gonna go just very well, because it's obvious that all of
you are seasoned public performers. And I thank you all
very much for coming up here and talking to us. Anything
you'd like to conclude with? Well, I guess that's it.
END OF TAPE I, FIRST HALF OF SIDE 1.
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