Around the world and back home to Austin; Singer returns with a cappella group for concert

Published 10:16 am Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Cat’s Pajamas will perform at Riverland Community College on Sunday evening. The a cappella group has sung on cruise ships and all over the United States. Photo provided

The Cat’s Pajamas will perform at Riverland Community College on Sunday evening. The a cappella group has sung on cruise ships and all over the United States. Photo provided

Austin native and former Riverland Community College student Donovan Germain always knew he wanted to perform for a living, and with The Cat’s Pajamas, that’s exactly what he gets to do.

The five-member a cappella group has toured around the world since 2005. Germain joined the group a little over a year ago and enjoys the life of travel.

“I love it,” he said. “I like the fact that we get to perform in all different places.”

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The group will perform at Riverland Community College Austin campus at 7 p.m. Sunday as part of its eighth annual Music in the Schools tour, where the group visits a school and gives some of the concert’s proceeds to the school’s music program.

Germain said giving back to the schools is really rewarding for him. Founder Brian Skinner said although it was a last-minute booking, the members are excited to perform in Germain’s hometown. The show will incorporate music from the 1950s to 1970s with current songs.

“We try to appeal to a very wide demographic,” Skinner said. “No matter what the age is, from kids to 90-year olds, they’re going to love it.”

“It’s going to be awesome,” he added.

The show lasts about two hours and is high-energy and family-friendly. Tickets cost $9 for adults and $4 for children. The five members — Skinner, Germain, Michael Samsky, Peter Yang and Dale Powell — sing with no instruments, though with the different blends, melodies and harmonies from the group it doesn’t always sound that way.

“We’re all working really hard and everything that we do onstage is 100 percent,” Germain said.

The group members have fun mimicking instruments such as guitars, but they don’t just sing. The group does a lot of dance choreography as well.

“It’s really quite a spectacle,” Germain said.

“It kind of separates us apart from just regular bands,” Skinner added.

Though many will think back to the barbershop music when they hear a cappella, Skinner said The Cat’s Pajamas tries to show people that’s not the only way for bands to perform that style. He said the movie “Pitch Perfect” has also helped people understand the different styles a cappella music can take on.

“People seem to respond very well to it and it’s gaining more popularity now,” Skinner said.

The group started at the University of Wisconsin, when founder Brian Skinner and other members already had experience singing together.

“We liked doing it so much in college that we decided to make a career out of it,” Skinner said.

The first time The Cat’s Pajamas performed together was for the 2005 Oreo Cookie Jingle competition. They then recorded a demo were offered a six-month stint on Celebrity Cruise Lines as the in-house a cappella group. After their first contract, The Cat’s Pajamas moved on to be hired as guest entertainers by Norwegian Cruise Lines. The Cats performed 40 weeks a year on board NCL from 2007 to 2009. The Cats also found themselves on “America’s Got Talent” and “The Next Great American Band.”

In the fall of 2009, The Cat’s Pajamas moved to Branson, Missouri, and now perform more than 200 shows a year. In the fall of 2011, The Cat’s Pajamas also performed on NBC’s show “The Sing Off.”

Germain met the group — together nine years now — while performing with a separate a cappella group.

“Luckily there was an opening so I auditioned and got in,” Germain said.

Germain sings high tenor with the group. While at Riverland, he sang in the Riverland choirs, played in the Instrumental Ensemble and appeared in musical theatre productions. After Riverland, he continued study at U.W.-LaCrosse and Winona State University, and earned a bachelor’s degree in music education, returning to Riverland briefly to study voice and perform in summer alumni shows.

“Ever since college a cappella has been my main musical outlet,” Germain said.

There have been different “cats” over the years, as members left to get married or chose a different career path. But why is the band called The Cat’s Pajamas?

“It’s like an old-school expression from the 1920s,” Skinner said. “We’re trying to bring it back, to make it retro-cool again.”

To purchase tickets online visit; they will also be available at the door. To learn more about Cat’s Pajamas or hear clips visit, or visit vocalmeow on Facebook.