W-M PAC to host several big shows over next month

Starting this weekend, the Watertown-Mayer Performing Arts Center is going to be a busy place for most of the next month. 

A run of four big events between now and Feb. 22 kicks off this weekend with Watertown Idol, a talent show that the Watertown-Mayer student council has expanded to include the entire community. Over the next month, the PAC will also host musical performances that are bound to suit just about everybody including a popular Twin Cities country band, a talented jazz musician and an a capella singing group that has gained fame on several television shows and has its own show in Branson, Mo.

The Watertown-Mayer School District made it no secret going into this school year that it would like to host more events in the Performing Arts Center that would cater to the entire community, not just the school. The next month should be a major step in bringing more of the community into the theater.

“I am so glad that we have such a variety of entertainment coming, so that we can bring different audiences in to the PAC,” said PAC director Joyce Peterson.

The Watertown Idol talent show, which will be held this Saturday, Jan. 25, at 7 p.m., will showcase various talents from students and other members of the Watertown community. Tickets for the event, which cost $5 for adults and $4 for students, will be available at the door.

While the Watertown Idol competition will feature local amateur talent, three shows later this month will feature some of the top professional talent from around the state and the region. Popular Twin Cities country band Maiden Dixie, which features Watertown native Jon Krentz, will play at the PAC on Feb. 1 at 7:30 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.). The Cat’s Pajamas, an a capella singing group which has appeared on NBC’s The Singoff and America’s Got Talent, will perform at The PAC on Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m., and Richard Johnson, a jazz pianist based in the Twin Cities who was once part of the Wynton Marsalis Septet and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, will play Feb. 22 at 7 p.m.

Here is a closer look at some of the upcoming shows at the Watertown-Mayer Performing Arts Center.


The  Cat’s Pajamas

The  Cat’s Pajamas, a high-energy male a capella group based in Branson, Mo., will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 28.

The  Cat’s Pajamas recently received national acclaim on NBC’s hit show, The Sing Off, an a capella singing competition. The group has been singing together since 2005, when it was started by Brian Skinner, who had sung with the other original members in several a capella singing groups at the University of Wisconsin.

Since then, in addition to appearing on numerous television shows, The  Cat’s Pajamas have launched their own nightly show in Branson, Mo., where they play more than 200 shows per year. They have also toured nationally and abroad, and have been featured as in-house entertainment for both Celebrity Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruse lines, performing 40 weeks a year for Norwegian between 2007 and 2009.

In 2014, The  Cat’s Pajamas will continue to perform in Branson for several months, and then will take their show to Atlantic City, N.J., from June through August.

The Cat’s Pajamas perform pop classics from the 1950s, 60s and 70s, as well as contemporary hits from artists like Jason Mraz and Michael Buble. Tickets for the show are available by calling 952-955-0671. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students.


Maiden Dixie

Formed in 2011 by Watertown native and guitarist Jonathan Krentz and a fellow Iraq War veteran, Maiden Dixie has quickly become one of the Twin Cities most popular country bands. Maiden Dixie will perform at the Performing Arts Center on Saturday, Feb. 1, which PAC Director Joyce Peterson said offered a unique opportunity for local teenagers and families.

“Many younger concert-goers normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to see a group like Maiden Dixie, because they often play in a bar setting,” Peterson said. “The PAC is the perfect family venue for such an act.”

Including its upcoming show in Watertown, Maiden Dixie is scheduled to play shows all over the Midwest over the next six months, including shows in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota. Maiden Dixie released its first original album in 2013, called Little Black Dress. The band has performed in every major club in Minnesota, and has opened for several national acts. Just last week, the band opened for quick-rising country newcomer Jon Pardi during his CD launch party in Minneapolis, and has also played popular Minnesota festivals like We Fest and Winstock. Comprised of two combat veterans of the Iraq War, six music/composition majors and even a division one basketball player, Maiden Dixie is an eclectic mix of interesting characters. Each of the seven members’ life story has followed a unique path that has ultimately led toward the creation of this country rock ensemble. With an inimitable blending of the country, rock, blues and folk genres, and with both male and female lead vocals, Maiden Dixie guarantees an exciting and enthusiastic live performance.

Tickets are $10 for students and $15 for adults, and are available here www.maidendixie.com.


Richard Johnson

Jazz pianist Richard Johnson will play at the PAC on Feb. 22 at 7 p.m.

Born in Pittsburgh, Johnson was first introduced to the piano at age 5 by his father, a gospel pianist in the church. Since then, Johnson has been schooled by some of the most legendary jazz musicians and studied at some of the nation’s most esteemed music institutions.

Johnson graduated from the Berklee School of Music in just two years, and then earned a Masters degree in Jazz Pedagogy from the Boston Conservatory. He then went on to receive an Artist Performance Diploma at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at New England Conservatory.

Johnson was later invited to become a member of the Wynton Marsalis Septet and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, both of which he did from 2000 to 2003. He later played as part of the Russel Malone Quartet and Irvin Mayfield’s Quintet. After completing his tenure with those groups, Johnson started the “Reach Afar” program for young people between the ages of 7 and 17, educating them about elements of jazz in hip hop music.

Johnson, now based in the Twin Cities, has traveled around the nation and the world, both as a representative of the United States through the U.S. State Department, and accompanying icons like Bobby Watson, Curtis Lundy, Herbie Hancock and Arturo Sandoval.

Most recently, Johnson has been taking inspiration from popular music such as 80s TV theme songs, Frank Sinatra or Broadway musicals, and infusing it with his own unique twist as part of his Jazz Alive series in the Twin Cities.

The concert in Watertown is being sponsored by the Watertown Area Fine Arts Council. Tickets will cost $20 for adults and $10 for students, and are available online or at the Marketplace Foods grocery store.