casey-and-timolin-cole-web-1.jpgBOCA RATON — The legacy of Nat King Cole is living on through the efforts of his youngest daughters, Casey and Timolin Cole.

The twin siblings set up a nonprofit organization in the legendary musician’s name four years ago to help preserve music programs in South Florida schools. Several fundraisers have been held to help buy instruments, provide instruction and develop groundbreaking music programs for aspiring young musicians.

The Nat King Cole Generation Hope Foundation has raised about $250,000 since its inception. Its goal is to help keep music education in local schools in a time when deep budget cuts have taken a toll on arts programs.

More than 5,000 kindergarten through 12-grade students from Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties have benefited, Timolin said. Financing is provided for musical instruments, production equipment, mentoring and instruction to Title 1 schools, schools with large concentrations of low-income students that receive federal funding. 

With budget cuts in the news and the economy struggling, programs in arts for schools are usually the first ones to go, Timolin said, adding that it is important to enrich students’ lives through music education because children are the “future” and it is paramount to nurture their growth.

‘HOW TO SUCCEED’

“The organization brings visibility and the need to keep arts strong in our schools,” said Tom Pearson, Arts Education administrator for the Palm Beach County School District.

“Its financial contributions and events such as the B.B. King (fundraiser held in March at CityPlace headlined by original Supremes group member Mary Wilson) have been a tremendous asset.”

More than 100 youths also attended a first of its kind summer strings camp sponsored by the foundation at Lynn University in Boca Raton for elementary school students. Instruments and tutoring were provided free of charge to the participants. Timolin Cole, 50, said the string initiative provided the students a unique learning opportunity.

“What we are trying to bring is the importance of music back into the school system. It promotes a child’s growth emotionally and academically,” she said.  “There were small groups and individual lessons.  They learn how
to succeed.”

‘UNFORGETTABLE’

The camp culminated with a finale performance attended by Casey and Timolin’s Grammy award-winning sister Natalie Cole. Well known for re-recording her late father’s classic Unforgettable as a duet with him through digital technology, Natalie did not perform, but was there to support her sisters and the childrens’ performance.

Their mother, Boca Raton resident Maria Cole, also a jazz singer who performed with music legends Count Basie and Duke Ellington in the 1940s, passed away from stomach cancer at age 89 three days before the July 13 camp finale concert.

The Nat King Cole Generation Hope Foundation was founded in 2008 by Boca Raton residents Casey and Timolin in memory of Nathaniel Adams Cole, their legendary singer, songwriter and pianist father known professionally as Nat King Cole. Its goal is to help keep music education in local schools.

County schools and organizations that have taken advantage of the foundation’s offerings include Boca Ration Middle School, Boca Raton High School, Forest Hill High, Heritage Elementary, Jaega Middle, Roosevelt Middle, the Riviera Beach Boys & Girls Club and Youth Orchestra Palm Beach County.  Donations have included band instruments, pianos and funding for musical instruction. 

The Nat King Cole Foundation sponsored one of the eight string programs implemented in the county’s schools last year, said administrator Pearson, and he intends to add more.

With more students in South Florida each year, “We don’t have enough money to go around,” he said. “In the ’80s, all the strings programs (in the county) were cut. It has been one of my goals to add those programs.”

For information about the Nat King Cole Generation Hope Foundation call 561-213-8209 or email info@natkingcolefoundation.org