University of New Orleans (New Orleans, LA)


A figure in a hat appears in the foreground pictured from the back, in the opening to the left the figure of the radio show host holding a microphone

Nick Spitzer interviews zydeco musician Buckwheat Zydeco as part of the radio series, American Routes. Photo by the University of New Orleans

American Routes, a two-hour weekly radio series covering the American musical and cultural landscape, travels through many different musical genres and topics, from surf music one week to Louis Armstrong’s home recordings the next. In this way, it represents a rare entity on the radio: music presented for its artistic worth rather than its commercial appeal.

The NEA has supported American Routes throughout its five-year existence. In FY 2003, the University of New Orleans received an NEA Arts on Radio and Television grant of $85,000 to support another season of the popular program. Reaching approximately 500,000 listeners each week, American Routes combines recordings with in-studio performances and interviews to present the various musical and cultural styles that make up the American experience. Many of the people interviewed on the show are not well known, but their life experiences and ability to articulate their art make them ideal voices of American regions, communities, and occupations.

Host Nick Spitzer, Professor of Folklore and Cultural Conservation at the university and the first Louisiana State Folklorist, has more than two decades of experience working with musicians, musical styles, and American cultures. Recording in New Orleans—home to a diverse mix of American music, including blues, soul, country, rockabilly, and jazz—American Routes is able to use the eclectic aura of the region to reflect the many faces of the United States. Programs also can be found on the program Web site ( as well as useful information about the musicians and their music.

(From the 2003 NEA Annual Report)