Nick Spitzer

Nick Spitzer portrait
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Nick Spitzer is a Professor of Anthropology at Tulane. He has hosted & produced public radio’s American Routes, a weekly vernacular American music, interview and cultural program heard nationwide for 25 years. Nick founded the state of Louisiana Folklife Program (1978), where he helped create the Baton Rouge Blues Festival, Louisiana Folk Festival, Spanish Town Mardi Gras and granting programs for traditional artists and cultures statewide. After producing the Louisiana Folklife Pavilion at the Louisiana World Exposition, he became Senior Folklife Specialist at the Smithsonian. Spitzer has recorded or annotated dozens of traditional music recordings; directed the PBS award-winning film, Zydeco: Creole Music programs & Culture in French Louisiana, and has been a cultural commentator for All Things Considered, Nightline and CBS Sunday Morning. He was artistic director of Folk Masters: Traditional Music in the Americas for Carnegie Hall’s centennial season (1990), followed by a decade of American Roots Independence Day concert/broadcasts from the National Mall. His publications include: The Mississippi Delta Ethnographic Overview (National Park Service); Louisiana Folklife — A Guide to the State (La/CRT); Public Folklore (Smithsonian Press); and Blues for New Orleans — Mardi Gras and America’s Creole Soul (Penn Press). Spitzer was named a Fellow of the American Folklore Society, Louisiana Humanist of the Year after Katrina cultural recovery efforts, and later awarded a Guggenheim for work on oral literacy in Louisiana Creole communities. Interested in both cultural continuity and creativity in traditional societies, Nick’s mantra for the engaged work of a public folklorist, is that “Cultural conservation is cultural conversation.” He has been named a 2023 National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts.