Hidden Figures: Sean Ardoin
Ardoin is a 2x Grammy nominee
LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Sean Ardoin comes from a musical family. Every weekend there was music.
When you grow up in a family like that, you can’t help but want to be involved.
Adoin started playing the drums at the age of four, however, his father never really wanted him to be a musician.
One day, when Ardoin was 11 years old, he saw his dad trying to teach his mom how to play the accordion.
He says, “I was like, 'I can do that.” He was like, “No, you can’t.” I said, ‘yes I can.’ I took it. I went, ‘[makes accordion noises].’ And he went, ‘Oh! You can!’ And from that point on, I started playing the accordion."
He was born in Eunice, grew up in Kinder when he was 11, then settled in Lake Charles when he was 12.
The Ardoin family has been involved in Zydeco for many generations. Sean’s grandfather’s cousin Amede Ardoin is a pioneer of early Cajun Creole repertoire. In fact, Armede was one of the only people to do music for a living at that time.
Sean’s grandfather was also a musical legend, as well his father Lawrence Ardoin. Lawrence’s brothers started a band called The Ardoin Brothers. Sean eventually took over the band with his brothers in 1988.
Sean’s son also is a part of the Creole tradition. He plays in the band with his father.
Sean’s musical journey in his childhood wasn’t the easiest path. As a middle-schooler, he didn’t get to play instrument he wanted to.
“I joined the band in 7th grade and they wouldn’t let me play drums. I was mad," Sean said, “I played saxophone...just to be in the band.”
When Washington Marian first opened, his freshman year, he played in the marching band. Eventually, he transferred to Barbe to learn how to march core style.
Core style is a style of marching that involves using high-knee steps when marching, rather than the traditional style of rolling the feet. It is commonly used at predominantly black educational institutions.
Sean had his eyes set on going to LSU. He got a band scholarship, a part-time job, and joined the band there playing the tenors—a set of six drums attached together. He paid his way through college.
When asked about his major, he says he majored in “hustlin’” and “survival”—but he actually got a degree in general studies.
“This for all the general studies graduates: We’re killing it! We’re winning the war!”
He was originally going to go into the medical field because at the time, the industry needed them. The prerequisite classes created issues for his schedule. He could’t give 3,000 hours.
Engineers were also struggling, Sean says, “They were graduating college and then there was no work.”
His counselor suggested getting the general studies degree. She told him that employers want to see that candidates are trainable and that can finish.
Sean is a true LSU Tiger at heart. “It was an awesome experience. Wouldn’t trade it for the world. Go Tigers!”
While in college, Sean started to recognize how important his Creole culture was to him. He had to educate others about Creole culture.
“When New Orleans people hear Creole, they automatically think light-skinned. I’m sure the Hatian Creoles would disagree as well.”
He connects black and Creole culture. "The unique thing about Creole music is that it’s black music. Some identify with the pigmentation, but it’s that language, the culture, and the food.
And it’s not just Creole culture, his blackness is just as important to him. “I’m not just a black person that came from some state, I’m a black person who has a Creole ethnicity that I have on top of the fact that I have all this blackness. I knew I was a black Creole from Louisiana and I understood I was gonna ride that until the day I die. And I super was proud of it."
His father didn’t learn English until he was nine years old. He feels like the Creole influence meant they weren’t subjected to the taste of someone in New York and L.A. to define what was cool. “We decided that,” Sean said.
Sean describes Creole music as something unique. “The Creole music is an ethnic derivation; black French-speaking people from Louisiana. Now, as you can tell, it’s not a light-skinned or a dark-skinned thing. It’s a culture,” Sean said.
He put all of his efforts into the family business as third generation musician at LSU. He says, it’s possible have a lucrative career off of music.
“I’ve always understood what it took to be success," Ardoin said.
Ardoin says artists can play two times a weekend every weekend at places like trail rides, dances, clubs, and more. He says, “They can earn a good living. Not sure if anyone can get rich off of it.”
He encourages those who want a start in the music industry to go for it. “Growing up in this business, I see the potential and I’ve always been able to maximize it," Sean says.
Sean created a new genre called Kreole Rock and Soul. He says when people hear “Zydeco” they may not always respond positively.
“Whenever anyone says Zydeco music they either hate it or they love it. And whatever they love or hate isn’t what we do here," said Sean.
The night that Sean found out he was nominated, he was brought to tears.
“7:30 a.m.: I had been up for an hour already anticipating what’s gonna happen. 7:45: the announcement happens. I’m looking on my phone trying to get there. Ding! Congratulations! Ding! Congratulations! And then, I finally got in in the middle of all the notifications and it pops up: Sean Ardoin, “Kick Rocks.” I went, ‘I got two?!?!’”
He understands that one nomination is phenomenal, but two is unbelievable.
“I don’t think there’s anything like it because I don’t know if everybody understands, but there are billions of people in the world, thousands of people have nominations, and even fewer have Grammys,” Sean said.
When asked about what he would tell young people interested in starting in the music industry, he said, “All you kids out there watching this, understand that you can’t let someone, even people close to you, stop you from your dream. If you know in your heart that that is what you’re supposed to do in this world, then I challenge you to give it all you got.”
“When one person is successful, they leave trails," Sean continues, “Whenever one of us makes it, we all make it. And then, I will then have the ability to let everybody know about our music here in Southwest Louisiana. All I can think about is getting another project and getting it Grammy-certified so that I can be considered for another one in the future.”
You can expect more shows all over the world from Sean. You can expect another CD to follow.
“My goal has always been to show my music to the world. You have to have Zydeco in a show for it to be successful. I’m happy to be able to grow it to this number; thousands of people."
As for his future, Sean says, “And Creole rock and soul is gonna bring it to the world.”
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