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Nick Spitzer, Host and Producer
Nick Spitzer, the producer and host of American Routes, is a folklorist and a professor of anthropology and American studies at Tulane University. Nick specializes in American music and the cultures of the Gulf South, and received a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Texas in 1986 with his dissertation on zydeco music and Afro-French Louisiana culture and identities.
American Routes, which is distributed by PRX, reaches nearly a million listeners each week on over 268 stations and via its website.
Nick was founding director of the Louisiana Folklife Program, and edited and co-wrote Louisiana Folklife: A Guide to the State (1985) and The Mississippi Delta Ethnographic Overview (1979) for the National Park Service. He created the Folklife Pavilion for the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition, where he curated The Creole State: An Exhibition of Louisiana Folklife. He has also served as senior folklife specialist at the Smithsonian Institution (1985-1990), the artistic director for the Folk Masters concert/broadcasts from Carnegie Hall and Wolf Trap (1990-97), and the Independence Day concerts broadcast live on NPR from the National Mall (1992-2001).
As Louisiana State Folklorist (1978-85), he created films, festivals, exhibits and recordings of regional music, and co-produced a 90-minute Folk Festival USA special on Louisiana music for NPR, helping to bring Cajun music and zydeco to national visibility. His work continued at the Smithsonian, where he curated folk festival programs and directed or served as commentator in films about American music, including Great Performances, broadcast on PBS and the Discovery Channel. He has also served on the boards of the Fund for Folk Culture and the National Council for the Traditional Arts.
Nick has been a cultural commentator and producer for NPR’s All Things Considered and Fresh Air, CBS’ Sunday Morning, and ABC’s Nightline. Spitzer directed the film Zydeco: Creole Music and Culture in Rural Louisiana (1986), and has produced or annotated two dozen documentary sound recordings. In 2002 he co-curated ‘Raised to the Trade’: Creole Building Arts of New Orleans at the New Orleans Museum of Art. He is an essayist and co-editor for the book Public Folklore (1992, 2007) and co-author of Blues for New Orleans: Mardi Gras and America’s Creole Soul (2006).
A former resident scholar at the School of American Research in Santa Fe, and a Fellow of the American Folklore Society, Nick received the AFS’ Benjamin Botkin Lifetime Award in Public Folklore, an ASCAP-Deems Taylor Excellence in Broadcasting Award in 2004, the New Orleans Mayor’s Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award, and in 2006 was named Louisiana Humanist of the Year for cultural recovery efforts after the catastrophe.
Nick’s radio experience goes back to the 1970s, when he served first as program director of WXPN-FM, the college radio station at Penn in Philadelphia, where he majored in anthropology. After graduation, he was afternoon drive host on the popular “underground” rock station WMMR-FM in Philadelphia, and later worked as a deejay on the legendary progressive country station KOKE-FM during the early boom days of the Austin music scene.
His interests include ethnography of the Gulf Coast, cultural creolization, American vernacular music/culture, and public cultural policy. Nick received a Guggenheim fellowship for work on traditional creativity in Louisiana Creole communities.
Other Works by Nick Spitzer
- Love and Death at the Second Line
February 20, 2004
- Rebuilding the ‘Land of Dreams:’ Expressive Culture and New Orleans’ Authentic Future
August 29, 2006
- Creolization as Cultural Continuity and Creativity in Postdiluvian New Orleans and Beyond
November 28, 2011
Lauren Callihan, Development Associate
Program Associate Lauren Callihan has worked with American Routes since its very first days in a small French Quarter office. Ms. Callihan, who holds an M.A. in Communications from Louisiana State University, assists Nick Spitzer in managing American Routes from development, contractual, budgetary and timeline perspectives.
Betsy Shepherd, Managing Editor and Producer
Betsy grew up in Opelousas, La., the birthplace of zydeco music. While earning her B.A. in English from Louisiana State University, she worked on her Cajun two-step and zydeco moves at dance halls and juke joints around the state. Post-college she worked as a writer and editor at the Oxford American magazine, and oversaw the production of its annual music issue. Her love of American vernacular music took her to Indiana University in Bloomington, where she earned two Master’s degrees in Folklore and Ethnomusicology and Journalism, and played in various local bands. She produced arts and music features for Indiana Public Media while serving as Online Content Coordinator and, most recently, worked as Community Manager for Pop Up Archive, a Bay Area tech company that builds software and services for audio archiving. She moved back to her beloved home state to brush up on her dance moves and join American Routes as Managing Producer and Editor.
Nina Feldman, Assistant Producer
Nina Feldman is an audio producer based in New Orleans. Her work has appeared on NPR News, PRI’s The World, Latino USA, State of the Re:Union and others. She has contributed regularly to WWNO’s news and cultural programming. She loves good conversation and tries to simulate it by making good radio. As Assistant Producer at American Routes, she edits and produces interviews and narrative features. She is also the founder and emcee of NO LAW, or New Orleans Ladies Arm Wrestling.
Garrett Pittman, Associate Producer
Garrett grew up in Raleigh, NC, where he developed his love for all styles of music – but particularly country and regional folk traditions such as bluegrass and Piedmont blues. He later moved to New Orleans to study US History at Tulane, where he earned his MA.
He’s worked with American Routes since May of 2011, and is currently charged with booking, programming, and editing, as well as some engineering and content production.
Margaret Howze, Contributing Producer
Margaret is a 15-year veteran of NPR, where she was a senior producer for cultural programs. She produced the Peabody-award winning, 26-part series Making the Music, hosted by Wynton Marsalis. Margaret has also produced documentaries on Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Hank Williams and Mary Lou Williams among others, and served as music producer for the weekly live program Anthem. She received a second Peabody award as senior producer for NPR’s long-running Jazz Profiles, and a Gracie Allen Award for her two-part series on “Women in Jazz.” Margaret has contributed to American Routes for the last seven years, combining her abilities as features producer and digital editor with a strong knowledge of recorded American vernacular music—especially jazz and rhythm and blues.
In 1999 Emily helped launch PRI’s The Next Big Thing, and served as its senior producer. Since 2005 she has worked with a range of shows and institutions, including American Routes, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, The Metropolitan Opera, National Public Radio, Nextbook.org, Studio 360 and Weekend America.
Before her stint in radio, Botein worked for seven years on local and national folklore programming initiatives at the Smithsonian Institution, the Brooklyn Arts Council and the Center for Traditional Music and Dance.
Joel Rose, Contributing Producer
Joel is a freelance journalist based in Philadelphia. His stories appear regularly on NPR’s All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Day to Day and other public radio shows. He’s also written for GOOD Magazine, Arthur and ARTnews. Joel is a former associate producer at American Routes, and was the contributing producer for Philadelphia Sounds.
He has also been a freelance producer/reporter for KQED, and is a former staff reporter at WHYY in Philadelphia.
Matt Sakakeeny, Contributing Producer
Matt Sakakeeny is Assistant Professor of Music at Tulane University. He hails from Worcester, Ma. where he began studying music in high school. After graduating from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore with degrees in classical guitar and recording, he interned with classical engineer Tony Faulkner in London. Returning to the U.S., he began audio restoration and radio production work at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., where he met Nick Spitzer. He has worked with American Routes since 1997, first as Technical Director, then as Co-Producer, and most recently as Contributing Producer. Matt is currently conducting research for a book on New Orleans brass bands.
Mary Beth Kirchner, Founding Executive Producer
Mary Beth Kirchner’s productions represent a breadth and depth rivaling any producer in public broadcasting. For the last twenty years she has produced some of the most compelling series in cultural programming for public radio — with projects ranging from intimate documentaries to highly produced radio dramas and live concert broadcasts. Her productions include collaborations with Public Radio International, the Smithsonian Institution, the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, the BBC, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Asia Society, and NHK (Japan’s public broadcaster). Winner of over fifty national and international awards, she was honored in 1997 with the prestigious Silver Baton from the duPont-Columbia University Awards for her collaboration with Norman Corwin. Most recently, Kirchner has become a contributing producer for the ABC News program “Nightline,” collaborating with correspondent Robert Krulwich.
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