Silent auction items
More than 80 silent auction items drew lots of attention and bids at the Portuguese-American Club. Photos by Ralph Stewart

Auction raises voices and money

By Julian Wise - November 9, 2006

To call the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School Minnesingers a chorus is an understatement. Under the tutelage of directors Dan Murphy and Jan Wightman, this dedicated cadre of singers is molded each year into an exemplary group whose voices meld, swirl, and soar together with strength and intricacy. The annual Minnesingers Auction at the Portuguese-American Club in Oak Bluffs Saturday night was an opportunity for the Island community to support the Minnesingers by bidding on a wide variety of items generously donated by Island businesses and individuals. From the moment the doors opened until the gavel landed on the final item, the evening had a warm, open atmosphere in which friends and family gathered to celebrate the talent and dedication of these adolescent singers.

The Minnesingers
The Minnesingers gave a mini concert at their benefit last Saturday.

Audience members had the opportunity to bid on 72 live auction and 87 silent auction items. A cursory glance over the offerings gave a sense of the breadth and depth of the Island's generosity. Jewelry, pizza parties, and paintings by Allen Whiting and Enos Ray mingled with a romantic getaway package at the Charlotte Inn and a ski vacation at the Whistler ski resort in British Columbia. Book lovers could select autographed works by Bill and Hillary Clinton and "Clifford" creator Norman Bridwell. Auctioneer John Powers coaxed and cajoled the audience for bids until by evening's end the entire auction had netted over $15,000.

The auction was organized by the Minnesinger's Executive Board, a group of parents who steer the fund-raising efforts. Co-presidents Maria Sercander, Sarah Townes, and Kanta Lipsky are joined by vice-president Anne Marie Reid, secretary Maureen Hall, and treasurer Linda Fischer.

Ms. Fischer reported that the annual auction is the cornerstone of the organization's fund-raising efforts. "It's huge," she said. "The opportunity for our kids to travel next year is grounded in this single event."

Ms. Fischer believes the broad community support is due to the legacy of excellence directors Dan Murphy and Jan Wightman have created with the minnesingers. "Dan Murphy and Jan Wightman have acquired a reputation of making some beautiful adults out of our young children," she says.

Ms. Wightman says the strong turnout is a testament to the bonds the students have formed with the Island community through their outreach performances at senior centers and community events. "It's great to get the community involved," she says. "Every year I am blown away by the generosity of the donors."

Abby Bailey
Abby Bailey displays two books being auctioned off last Saturday night at the Minnesinger benefit.

Julie Perry, a junior who traveled to Ireland last year with the choir, says participation in the Minnesingers results in learning how to work cooperatively with your peers.

"When we went to Ireland were able to jell as a group. By the end of the trip we were one big family."

Sophomore Holly Johnson, currently enjoying her first year in the chorus, says being part of the Minnesingers has taught valuable discipline and focus. "I learned to buckle down a lot more," she says. "I usually procrastinate a lot, but this has shown me I need to work hard to keep up with these upperclassmen."

School superintendent James Weiss attended the auction and kicked off the evening by winning a pizza party courtesy of Island Pizza. Surveying the buzzing hall at one point, he said, "The Minnesingers have always been a very special group, and this shows the kind of support they have in our community."

Karen Felder, a parent volunteer, summarized the evening by noting, "It's a great bunch of kids. How can you not support them?"

Julian Wise is a frequent contributor to The Times, specializing in music, film, and the performing arts.