Cole got her start with gospel. Her first group, “The Singing Coles,” consisted of the entire Cole family: mother, father, and her six siblings.
“We all had perfect pitch,” she said. They sang together as a family for over twenty years and Linda still performs with her mother whenever she visits Milwaukee.
Cole has had many incarnations in her career. Notably, she was so devoted to performing that she worked in the legal field by day and still managed to sing professionally three nights per week.
“I don't know how I made it through,” she laughed.
Now she has retired from corporate work to focus entirely on her music.
Cole lives near Flagler Beach where there are not many venues close by so she travels throughout the state several days per week. She frequently travels in excess of 100 miles each way for the love of her work. She is also a vocal coach.
“Actually, I call myself a vocal therapist. I teach at a music store in Ormond Beach. My youngest student is only four years old and I just got a client who is 70. He'd recently had bypass surgery and began singing as therapy for his lungs,” she said.
One reason Cole is in such demand as a voice coach is because she came to know many of the greats personally.
“I met a lot of these musicians through my son, Anthony, who is a celebrated musician in the Orlando area. He toured the world with Sam Rivers and Sam, of course, was a part of the Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis set.... He was my influence to be introduced to a lot of these players when we came to Florida,” she said.
The music gene has not skipped a generation in the Cole line. Another reason she is so valued in the community is because of her experience and consummate work ethic.
“When I get a new arrangement, the first thing I do I research the song: Who wrote it? What were they saying? When did they write it? Who performed it? What was popular in that era? That gives me a feel for what I'm walking into,” she said. “Then I download several versions of it and carry it everywhere listening to it all the time: on my way to the grocery store and shopping. I run it though my head and I always have the lyrics on hand. Then become like children posing, acting that game, thinking out the song.”
This coming Sunday, Cole will be singing the vocals for The Sanford Jazz Ensemble. The SJE performs big band entirely as a volunteer effort to help preserve that tradition of music. Cole explained that big band, by nature is falling out of favor in this economy because of the logistics of paying and traveling with so many musicians and so much equipment. As a result fewer and fewer women are performing with these groups, too.
“Girl singers go on to the trios and duos,” she said with equal measures of pride and sorrow. “When a big band ventures out and calls on a singer that's pretty big stuff. There's not a lot of girls left out there in this genre, and I am tickled pink to be asked. I'm very, very honored to be working with these great players [of the SJE].”
Her hard work has not gone unnoticed, though. She commented on the pressure of having so many people counting on her to do know her part: “When I come to a big band rehearsal I'd better know what I'm doing. If you miss the entrance into the song-- well, you get one time to miss the entrance. But I tell you I'm on time! That's how I've been allowed to stay with them for so long.”
Join Cole and the Sanford Jazz Ensemble this coming Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Wayne Densch Performing Art Center for an unforgettable performance.
Jessica Pirani can be reached at JessieBerger@yahoo.com.