American Routes

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American Routes
Running time2 hours
Country of originUnited States
Home stationWWNO
Hosted byNick Spitzer
Executive producer(s)Mary Beth Kirchner
Recording studioNew Orleans, Louisiana
Original release1998 –
Audio formatStereophonic

American Routes is a weekly two-hour public radio program that presents the breadth and depth of the American musical and cultural landscape. Hosted by Nick Spitzer, American Routes is syndicated by 225 stations, with over half a million listeners.[1] It is produced out of New Orleans and distributed by PRX. American Routes is the most widely heard regular presence for tradition-derived and community-based music on public radio today.


Spitzer at the microphone in 2009

The show was launched in November 1997 on WWOZ in New Orleans. It was created by Nick Spitzer and Mary Beth Kirchner, who had worked together previously producing segments for All Things Considered. By 1998, American Routes was syndicated by American Public Radio for 39 stations.[2]

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, production of the show temporarily relocated to KRVS 88.7 FM at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in Lafayette, Louisiana.[3] While in Lafayette, Spitzer and his crew produced a series of shows called After the Storm,[4] which "followed the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast through the stories and songs of its musicians".[5]

Production operations have since returned to New Orleans with studios at Tulane University. In July 2008, American Routes announced an affiliation with Tulane.[6]

American Routes celebrated its 10th anniversary on January 16, 2009, with a concert at the House of Blues in New Orleans. Performers included Dr. Michael White, Trombone Shorty and Al Johnson. Performances and interviews from the show were included in a program that aired the week of February 18, 2009.[7]

American Routes has more than 300 original shows in its catalog, and a database of over 1000 hours of interviews.[8]

As of July 2011, the program switched distributors from APM to the Public Radio Exchange, although it continued to be distributed on the public radio satellite system. It was the second major public radio series to switch to the web-based distributor from one of the "Big 3" public radio distributors, after Sound Opinions switched from APM the prior year.[9]


Every American Routes show is two hours long. The show consists of songs arranged around interviews, usually of musicians or field audio from various cultural events or institutions. The music is chosen to complement the theme of the show. You can find archived radio shows featuring playlists of specific artists and styles to choose from, streaming 24/7 at American Routes

The host[edit]

Spitzer speaking on May 11, 2013 at University of Pennsylvania Kelly Writer's House Arts Cafe

Nick Spitzer has hosted the public radio show American Routes since its 1997 premiere. He was Louisiana's first State Folklorist, and the founding director of the Louisiana Folklife Program. He has also been the senior folklife specialist at the Smithsonian Institution, and a commentator and producer for NPR, CBS and ABC.

Spitzer is the editor and co-writer of numerous books, including Public Folklore and Blues for New Orleans: Mardi Gras and America’s Creole Soul. He is a professor of Anthropology and American Studies at Tulane University.[10]

He was named the Louisiana Humanist of the Year in 2006 for his work towards cultural recovery after Hurricane Katrina. He is a recipient of a 2023 National Heritage Fellowship awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, which is the United States government's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.[11]


Notable interviews featured on American Routes include:[12]


As of April 2018:[13]

  • Nick Spitzer – Host and Producer
  • Mary Beth Kirchner – Founding Executive Producer
  • Betsy Shepherd – Managing Producer & Editor
  • Garrett Pittman – Associate Producer
  • Olivia Broslawsky – Assistant Producer
  • Jason Rhein – Technical Supervisor
  • Lauren Callihan — Development Associate

CD releases[edit]

  • American Routes with Nick Spitzer: Songs and Stories from the Road [2 CD] (2008, Highbridge Company)
  • Our New Orleans: A Benefit Album [CD] (2005, Nonesuch Records)

External links[edit]


  1. ^ John Wirt (January 16, 2009). "Staying on Course" Baton Rouge Advocate.
  2. ^ Samuel G. Freedman (August 13, 2000). "Crisscrossing the Wide Map of American Music" The New York Times.
  3. ^ Samuel G. Freedman (September 7, 2005). "This Song Goes Out to You, Big Easy" The New York Times.
  4. ^ Samuel Hughes (March/April 2009). "Digging Routes"[permanent dead link] The Pennsylvania Gazette.
  5. ^ After the Storm IV: Thanksgiving
  6. ^ New Orleans CityBusiness article (July 17, 2008),[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Samuel Hughes (March/April 2009). "Digging Routes"[permanent dead link] The Pennsylvania Gazette.
  8. ^ John Wirt (January 16, 2009). "Staying on Course" Baton Rouge Advocate.
  9. ^ PRX page for American Routes.
  10. ^ "Nick Spitzer". American Routes. Tulane University. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  11. ^ "NEA National Heritage Fellowships 2023". National Endowment for the Arts. n.d. Retrieved June 24, 2023.
  12. ^ American Routes Show Archive Archived 2009-02-04 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Tulane University-American Routes-About Us