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American Routes' Continued Engagement in Cultural Diplomacy, at Home & Overseas

November 2nd, 2012 ~ American Routes has the honor of receiving a prize from the Taiji Traditional Music Committee of the China Conservatory, which was presented in Beijing on Oct 25. The award reaffirmed Nick Spitzer’s work as both the host of American Routes and Tulane University Professor of Anthropology, and his commitment to the preservation and celebration of America’s music traditions

While American Routes’ host and producer, Nick Spitzer, was not on hand to accept the award in person, he arranged for a special guest performance by Carl LeBlanc and the Big Easy Street Band at the award ceremony, which was broadcast on Chinese National Television.

Carl LeBlanc is a banjo player and vocalist with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and a native son of New Orleans’ 7th Ward, whose music career spans as many decades as genres. Before his recent tenure at Preservation Hall, LeBlanc played guitar alongside such greats as Sun Ra, Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint, Ellis Marsalis and Bo Diddley. LeBlanc was joined by the Big Easy Street Band, which consists of several New Orleans traditional jazz masters, including Michael Pierce (clarinet), Michael Burtchaell (trumpet), Ernie Elly (drums) and Darrell “Honey Bear” Francis (bass).

While American Routes was being honored in Beijing, Dr. Spitzer was personally hosting a contingent of Chinese folklorists as chair of the local program committee for the American Folklore Society 2012 Annual Meeting: The Continuity and Creativity of Culture. This year’s meeting was built on the theme of New Orleans’ recovery to address concerns for other cultures and communities imperiled by economic instability, political oppression or ecological catastrophe. The meeting took place October 24 – 27 at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans.

The AFS Annual Meeting commenced on Wednesday October 24 with a daylong “Saints & Sinners” tour. That evening, Dr. Spitzer presented an opening lecture performance by Dr. Michael White entitled “How New Orleans Traditional Jazz is a Metaphor for American Life.”

American Routes will be continuing its commitment to cultural diplomacy into the future by producing a program called “East Meets West: Routes to China,” which will address American music in China, explore Chinese and Chinese American traditional musical styles and present a variety of cultural questions regarding cultural continuity and musical innovation in both societies. This program will be broadcast on public radio nationwide in 2013.