Dr. Carter says he particularly empathizes with poor students because he vividly recalls his own financial struggles as a Hampton (Va.) Institute student. From there, he would go on to receive a master's degree from Juilliard School of Music and a doctorate from Peabody Conservatory.
After Juilliard, he was choir director and department chairman for five years at Knoxville College in Tennessee before coming to Baltimore in 1970 to enter Peabody. Here he quickly became a fixture in art music circles, serving on the founding board of the School for the Arts.
A year after joining Morgan's fine arts faculty, he became choir director. For years he has maintained that post and served as department chairman and director of the Performing Arts Series. At most colleges, those jobs would be held by three people.
Dr. Carter lives in Kernwood, near Guilford, with his wife, Jean, who's nearly as busy as Dr. Carter with her own career as director of a small opera company in Philadelphia and as a part-time voice instructor at Catholic University, friends say. They have two grown children, Ryan, an engineer, and Lynn, an aspiring opera singer.
In addition to his duties at Morgan, Nathan Carter often directs the choir at the 6,000-member New Shiloh Baptist Church in West Baltimore, where his brother, the Rev. Harold Carter, is pastor.
Dr. Carter is founder and headmaster of New Shiloh's 100-student music school, too.
The Carter brothers are originally from Selma, Ala., "where we were poor in material things but rich in love." Their father was a Baptist minister, their mother, a church singer and pianist who had worked as an elementary school principal before marriage.
"I think I have always known that he is a genius," his brother said. As a child, Nathan "was directing choirs, playing the piano . . . doing all of these things well without adult supervision."
Nathan Carter says he's never applied for a job: "Every job I've had [the employer] has asked me to work for them." He credits that to his training and being in the right place at the right time.
Morgan was certainly the right place for him over the past quarter century as the classical music world has become more accepting of African-American artists and their creations.
Also, he's carved out a niche for Morgan by performing works by black composers. When Chicago Symphony director Daniel Barenboim looked for a chorus to record "African Portraits" by Hannibal Lokumbe, he called Dr. Carter.
"Daniel Barenboim could have hired any choir in the world, but he knew we could do it, so he picked us," Dr. Carter said.
Tickets for Morgan State University Choir's 25th anniversary concert at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall are available at the Meyerhoff box office. The 200-voice anniversary choir will include current members and alumni. Tickets are $15, $18 and $20. For more information, call (410) 783-8000.