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Photo by: Bailee Dehart
Louisiana Creoles, Cultural Creolization and American Routes
November 3, 2016
A producer and host of the weekly radio program “American Routes,” spoke at Nicholls State University last Thursday in Peltier auditorium as part of the Fletcher Lecture Series.
Nick Spitzer is Louisiana’s first official folklorist. He founded the Louisiana Folklife Program, is the senior folklife specialist for the Smithsonian and is an American studies professor at Tulane University.
“American Routes” is a weekly two-hour public radio program produced in New Orleans. It covers a broad range of American music including blues, jazz, gospel, soul, old-time country, rockabilly, Cajun, zydeco, Tejano, Latin, roots rock, pop, avant-garde and classical. The show reaches about a million listeners each week on over 225 stations and via it’s website.
Nicholls hosted Spitzer for the day where he held a question and answer session with students in the morning at Le Bijou theater, and a lecture at night, to discuss his radio show. Both forums were free and open to the public. Shana Walton, assistant professor of English at Nicholls, introduced Spitzer to the Nicholls community.
“He is shaping the craft of narrative and explication and creating an archive of American history and culture,” Walton said.
Spitzer explained that he always wanted to find an America where there is tradition and continuity but also creativity. He showed how his work in creole communities in Louisiana influenced his way of thinking about culture and life.
Spitzer also explained how his show counts on having people who are well-known to draw an audience, but to also find out more things than just the latest record or what is happening in show business. Some artists he has interviewed in the past include Willie Nelson, Tom Waits, B.B. King, Dr. John, Dave Brubeck, Abbey Lincoln, Elvis Costello, Ray Charles, Randy Newman, McCoy Tyner, Lucinda Williams, Rufus Thomas, Jerry Lee Lewis and others.
“The reverse is that we try to present people you have never heard of in the folklore perspective on the local culture and community,” Spitzer said. “We look for a universal and humanistic narrative from people.”
Spitzer talked about a special Halloween broadcast of the show called “Hallows and Harvest” which was aired on Sunday. It featured an interview from Houma Indian carver and instrument-maker, Ivy Billiot, about the Rougaru and the spirit world.
“It is something we recorded years ago but just decided that we can respectfully present it during the hallows, a time for spirits,” Spitzer said.
The Fletcher Lecture series has been a Nicholls tradition since 1985. Each lecture has contributed to teaching the Nicholls community about the culture of South Louisiana.