Nat "King" Cole
Entertainer Nat "King" Cole records at Capitol Recording Studios in circa 1963 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Nat King Cole sold 50 million records during his career. The record industry credits him as the voice that built Capitol Records. That’s because he recorded more than 150 singles that reached the Billboard Pop, R&B, and Country charts. That achievement has yet to be matched by any other Capitol artist.

Cole’s astounding career success, along with the respect he garnered from his peers in entertainment and fans that adored him are a few of the reasons for the upcoming centennial celebration of this great American music legend.

The National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) will accompany top musical talent for the “Nat King Cole at 100” concert series at the Kennedy Center, October 17-19. Featured artists include vocalists Patti Austin, Eric Benét, Freddy Cole, BeBe Winans, and Ryan Shaw. Tap dancers Dulé Hill and Jared Grimes will also perform.

Producer for “Nat King Cole at 100” is Elizabeth Healy, who has worked on anniversary and tribute shows for many years. The production of “Nat King Cole at 100” began two years ago following a conversation Healy had with Casey Cole, one of Nat King Cole’s twin daughters. Healy reached out to the National Symphony Orchestra and musician/composer Terri Lyne Carrington.

“The concert will include new arrangements of Nat King Cole’s songs,” Healy said when asked about the music and the line-up of talent for the concert. “When you plan these types of shows, you want people who really just want to be there, who want to pay tribute to the great artist who Nat King Cole is.”

Once the songs were decided, matching the songs with the vocalists began for Healy, Carrington, and Michael Butterman, NSO conductor for the concert. In addition to hearing Nat King Cole’s music, video footage will be used throughout the show to further highlight Cole’s career.

Cole’s brother Freddy Cole is one of the featured vocalists. Freddy Cole makes it to Washington, D.C. several times a year, performing at the Kennedy Center and Blues Alley. A popular and well-respected musician and vocalist, he maintains a very active tour schedule. Freddy Cole turned 88-years old on October 15. Recently, on his way to a gig in Arkansas, he reflected on the upcoming tribute concert honoring his brother.

“I’m happy to be a part of it,” said Freddy Cole. “I want people to hear the music and love it just as I have loved it.”

Music Director Carrington said he is working on the new arrangements for “Nat King Cole at 100,” in collaboration with Edmar Colón, a noted musician and composer based at Berklee College in Boston, where he and Carrington are on the faculty. Carrington, an award-winning artist, is also no stranger to the Kennedy Center. She has performed for the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters concerts and the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz competitions and concerts. While taking a break from a tour stop in Brazil, Carrington talked about working on “Nat King Cole at 100.”

“Files were sent to the vocalists to hear the new arrangements. We will come together a couple of days before the first performance to fine-tune the production,” said Carrington about the long-distance process of directing the music for “Nat King Cole at 100.” “I am happy to be a part of this music and to work with talented artists on this tribute.”

“Nat King Cole at 100” is October 17-19, 2019. Ticket information is available through the Kennedy Center by calling (202) 467-4600 or by visiting the website

Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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