After 40 years of service, Patch choir director isn’t ready to slow down

For Thomas Carter, producing good music is a matter of personal pride.

Perhaps that’s why, after 40 years of directing the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Protestant Choir at Patch Chapel, he’s still there.

“I never really had a reason that I felt I should quit,” he said.

Even after a triple bypass surgery in May, the 75-year-old is back in the chapel on Patch Barracks every Thursday night, coaching singers to perform Bach and Mendelssohn.

“He’s just a wonderfully broad and deep resource for our music congregation,” said Rick Kuenning, Patch Chapel worship leader and choir member.

Carter was honored for his service to Patch Chapel Oct. 4 with a volunteer appreciation certificate, framed print of the chapel, garrison commander’s coin and chaplain’s coin.

Besides the Patch choir, Carter directs several community choirs — including the Stuttgart German-American Community Chorus — almost every night of the week.
“I’m supposed to be retired,” he said, laughing. “But, not really.”

Carter takes his directing job seriously.

“He’s demanding, but understand,” said Kuenning, who can’t read music, but was encouraged to join the chapel chorus by Carter. “He encourages amateurs to really develop their worshipful music talents. He brings out the best in me.”

The director’s main goal is to to cause a worshipful atmosphere during the Sunday service: “to touch people so that they are part of it,” Carter said.

His love for conducting and church music came from a growing up in southern churches and singing his way through college in Texas.

“Since I was five, I’ve been singing,” he said. “There was always music in the house.”

As an adult, Carter participated in opera companies in New Orleans and Houston, even winning his local Metropolitan opera competition. He came to France in 1965 on a music scholarship, then moved to Germany to practice singing.

His multi-cultural background enriches the choir’s musical experience, Kuenning said. “He was born and raised in the American south with all that southern religion. His music career took him to high levels in Europe. We get Fanny Crosby and we get Johannes Sebastian Bach from him.”

He started directing the former Kelley Barracks choir in 1978, then moved to the Patch chorus the next year, where he still works today.

The director isn’t about to stop now, either, Kuenning said. “I think he intends to keep working for many years.”

What keeps him going? Real passion for his work, Carter said — something he believes can work for anyone. “Be real. Believe in what you’re doing.”