The Legacy Lives
Bringing Music to Children with Nat King Cole Generation Hope
By Alona Abbady Martinez
It is hard to tell Timolin and Casey Cole, the twin daughters of the legendary Nat King Cole, apart. Both possess a natural grace and beauty marked by a warm and embracing smile reminiscent of their late sister, Natalie, and even though they hail from a celebrity family, they are refreshingly down-to-earth, eager to talk about Nat King Cole Generation Hope, the organization they started to help bring music to underprivileged children. The sisters began the Palm Beach County organization to honor their father’s legacy.
“We started in 2008, really as a response to the nationwide budget cuts to the arts programs. We just realized that it was time to do something. It was like a call to action for us,” Timolin, the older of the two by two minutes, explained. “Our outreach has been to Palm Beach County, Broward, Miami-Dade and Okeechobee counties, as well as a school in New York. It’s a nationwide problem, so, obviously, we started here because this is our home and we hope this is to become something that we do nationwide,” she added.
Nat & Maria Cole Memorial Scholarship
They have helped between 50 schools and organizations, offering mentoring and scholarships like the Nat and Maria Cole Scholarship. The mission is to provide music education to the children with the greatest need and the fewest resources. The outreach has been to Title 1 Schools, those that require a minimum 70 percent of government funding.
Speaking to the twins sometimes feels like speaking to one person, they are close and frequently finish each other’s thoughts. Both are equally passionate and driven about the cause, even though, they admit, they did not inherit the music gene of their father, mother Maria (a renowned jazz singer) or super-star sister Natalie.
Childhood At The Cole’s
“Our mom tried to get us to play [the piano],” Casey offered with a grin. “We had these rigorous piano lessons every Wednesday. Mrs. Severe. Grace Severe,” she added, placing emphasis on their piano instructor’s last name. Timolin lets out a bubbly, heartfelt laugh. “We didn’t get it. We. Didn’t. Get it.” Casey repeated slowly to get the point across. “And we never practiced!”
Both sisters laughed before explaining there was no musical expectation set upon them by their parents. “We did the same thing other kids do, playdates and birthday parties and stuff like that. Our mom always made sure we were busy,” Casey said.
The sisters grew a little quieter remembering that it will be almost five years since their mother passed away. But when asked if she was aware of their organization, their faces instantly lit up.
“Yes!” They answered simultaneously.
“She actually left us our dad’s piano. She was very proud of what we’d started.” Timolin looked down and began playing with the ring on her pinky finger before continuing. “She really wanted to come to our Summer Strings Program.”
“And she wasn’t able to,” Casey added.
“Two days after she passed away, we had Natalie with us,” Timolin said, before explaining that the Summer Strings Program is a two-week music summer camp hosted for 85 elementary children. “We partner with Lynn [University] and Palm Beach County School District. The kids are divided into three groups: beginning, intermediate, and advanced and play strings from 8 to 3 every day. They are given instruction by their music teachers and Lynn Mentors. It’s really, really intense. At the end of the two weeks they…”
“Perform,” Casey added energetically.
“At the Wold Stage, so they’re given this opportunity to perform on this professional stage,” Timolin continued.
“It’s the sweetest thing,” Casey said.
The concert is free and open to everybody. Kids who attend the camp are selected from Title 1 schools that have existing string programs. The children are bussed in and given lunch.
“After two weeks they’re just stars! They get a certificate at the end saying they’ve completed the course. It’s just wonderful to see their faces. It’s such a wonderful sense of accomplishment,” Casey continued.
“That’s the whole idea of what we’re doing,” Timolin stressed. “It’s not so much to produce Nat King Coles or Beethovens. It’s all about instilling them with an important foundation.”
International Opulence asked what their father would have thought of what they were doing today.
“I think he would have wholeheartedly celebrated what we are doing,” Timolin answered.
“He just wanted to bring harmony to people through his music,” Casey said.
“He sang from the heart. You could tell,” Timolin responded.
“And that’s what we tell the kids,” Casey continued, before Timolin added, “We tell them he was an agent of social change. What we talk to them is about, whatever you do, just be passionate about it and persevere and have patience. That was our father,” Timolin offered just as Casey added a hearty “That’s right!”
For more information, visit natkingcolegenhope.org or call 561.213.8209.