Nicolas Carter was raised in Paraguay where he learned to play the Paraguayan harp, the national folk instrument. He has been composing, recording and performing harp music for more than 20 years and has recorded nearly a dozen albums in the United States, Europe and South America, both as a solo artist and with Latin American and world music ensembles.
Nicolas finds inspiration for his original compositions from observations of nature and in precious moments of everyday life. His performances integrate harp music with these observations and reflections on culture, often with a hint of humor, to create a warm and inviting experience for audiences. He is often a featured concert performer and master teacher at national and international harp festivals.
Nicolas holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in theatre directing from the University of Minnesota and was a Fulbright scholar in France.
Biographical information about Nicolas
Nicolas calls both Paraguay and Minnesota home and loves aspects of each, although they are very different - hemispheres apart! Nicolas was born in Minnesota and moved to Paraguay when he was six months old and lived most of his youth. Nicolas' parents were social workers and missionaries; his father, John Sundell Carter, was born and raised in Minnesota, while his mother, Renee Galland, was born to Swiss parents and raised in Argentina and Uruguay. He grew up in a large international, creative and spirited family! In Paraguay his days were filled with puppeteering and drama at the puppet theater started by his father, playing soccer with neighbors, and learning to play guitar and harp.
Nicolas began performing the harp at an early age. Every five years his family spent a furlough year in the United States. When his family toured to different churches and gave presentations on Paraguay, his brother played the guitar, his sister performed the folk dances, and Nicolas played the harp.
Paraguay has a distinguished tradition of harp music. Not only have they developed a unique instrument based on the 16th century Spanish harp, but have also established their own style of playing. The Paraguayan harp is the national folk instrument of Paraguay and is often present at parties, churches, serenades, musical festivals and other social events.
Nicolas began harp lessons at the age of ten. Nicolas' teacher was maestro Isidro Caballero, a master harpist who travelled extensively throughout the world and father of Nicolas Caballero, one of the most accomplished and famous Paraguayan harpists in the world. Nicolas learned harp in the traditional folk manner; he learned by ear, worked on finger techniques, and developed strong memory and improvisational skills.
Nicolas started his career as a musician at eighteen years of age when he returned to the United States to study at the University of Minnesota. Away from his homeland, he developed a new sense of appreciation the Paraguayan harp. The music became the means to be connected to the memories of the past and to rejoice and share with others the music and traditions of Paraguay. During his college years, he became an accompanist to popular Paraguayan singer Lizza Bogado and performed in concert with Lizza throughout the United States and in Sweden.
In 1991, Nicolas joined with Mauricio Sanchez from Mexico (guitar, woodwinds) and Juan Ruiz Bautista from Nicaragua (lead singer, guitarrón) to form a trio called Son del Sur (Song from the South). Son del Sur performed traditional Latin American folk music combining rhythms from various Latin American countries in a style that was uniquely their own and were well-received by audiences throughout the Midwest.
Nicolas lived in France for a year and performed with harpist Hugo Barahona throughout France, Switzerland and Germany. They played in a variety of interesting venues – they performed in the metro (subway) for tips, as well as in concerts for thousands.
Through the years, Nicolas began focusing on developing his repertoire of original music, blending textures of Latin American music with influences of world contemporary music. He performed solo harp and also collaborated with other experienced and talented local musicians, including Renato Lombardi (guitar), Pedro Torres (guitar), Gary Shulte (violin), Michael Bissonnette (percussion) and many others.
Nicolas currently lives in Minneapolis with his family. He performs in Minnesota and tours throughout the United States as a solo harpist, as well as with Latin American ensembles and world music ensembles.
Nicolas' completed his undergraduate degree in Theatre, Studio Arts, and Intercultural Communications and holds an MFA degree in theatre directing.
In 1989, just months after Stroessner, the dictator of Paraguay for the past 35 years, was overthrown and democracy was introduced, Nicolas returned home to Paraguay to become a theatre professor and director at the Catholic University in Asuncion.
It was an incredible time to be an artist in Paraguay! With democracy, came freedom of speech. Nicolas collaborated with his students, to write and direct an original play based on their collective life experiences. La Cabeza was a comedic reflection on various idiosyncratic aspects of Paraguayan culture and the ideas put into people's heads by the education system, the media, the church, politics, and other "sacred" institutions. The play won the prestigious Cartelera Award for Best Play of the Year and stimulated a movement of collaborative creations throughout the country. Inspired by La Cabeza, groups of young artists began creating their own original work and found their voice. La Cabeza is considered one of the most influential and memorable plays in Paraguayan contemporary theatre (source: Latin American Theatre Review).
In the mid-90's Nicolas received a Fulbright Scholarship to study Theatre of the Oppressed in Paris, France. Theater of the Oppressed, developed by Brazilian theatre director, writer and politician Agusto Boal based on Paulo Freire's Pedogogy of the Oppressed, transforms audiences into spect-actors, or active participants. The theatrical form uses theatre performance, games and exercises as tools for dialogue to help resolve human problems.
Nicolas has acted and directed plays both in Paraguay and Minnesota. In Minnesota, he has been involved with productions at various community theatres, including Teatro del Pueblo de Minnesota, the Mixed Blood Theatre and The Children'sTheatre.
Nicolas has had a variety of experience as an educator. Nicolas was the Spanish teacher for the City of Lakes Waldorf School in Minneapolis for several years where he taught first through eighth grade students. He has offered dozens of presentations, workshops, and residencies for students grades K-12 and has led camp experiences and directed plays for young students at schools and community theatres. He has been a University theatre professor and has taught theatre directing, acting, clowning, stage combat, puppetry and more to adult theatre students at various institutes.
Recently, Nicolas has been a teaching artist in two programs designed to improve student engagement and achievement through the arts. As a teaching artist for the Arts Courses for Educators (ACE) program developed by the Perpich Center for Arts Education (PCAE), Nicolas provided arts training for teachers, as well as hands-on instruction to help teachers learn ways to integrate arts into their teaching of other core subject areas.
At Neighborhood Bridges, a program developed by The Children's Theater, Nicolas works with teachers and students to engage students creatively and bring stories to life through drama to enhance critical literacy skills.
People who have attended a performance or have worked with Nicolas know that family is very important to him. The devotion and demands of living as a family are always integrated in Nicolas' artistic expressions. Nicolas family experiences inspire many of his creations, harp melodies with a spirit of gratitude and life celebration.
While in college, Nicolas met Tracy. Originally from the Midwest, Tracy spoke Spanish and also had a love for Latin America. Paraguayan harp music is often accompanied by dance while they were living in Paraguay, Tracy studied Paraguayan folk dance with the director of the National Folk Ballet at the Municipal School of Arts in Asuncion. Nicolas and Tracy continue to perform together at schools, museums, assisted living facilities, festivals, and a variety of other events.
Nicolas and Tracy and have three children, Maliya, Jovan and Elian. The children were raised mostly in Minnesota and have lived abroad and travelled frequently to visit family in South America. Nicolas enjoys performing music with his daughter Maliya who shares his passion for music and accompanies Nicolas with vocals, guitar and violin.