By KEVIN CHIRI
Tammany news bureau
SLIDELL – Chuck Mutz may always have a few regrets for the national singing career that never quite happened.
The Slidell man graduated from high school and went to Centenary College on a rare vocal scholarship as a classically trained singer. He got to sing at Carnegie Hall and certainly had the talent to make a career with his music.
While the cards never fell quite right for Mutz to get his big break as a singer, the voice that brought plenty of accolades is still proving to be his ticket to something special as he has become one of the most sought-after auctioneers in the Southeast region.
Mutz became certified earlier this year as the only Benefit Auctioneer Specialist in the state of Louisiana, adding to his licensed auctioneer credentials obtained shortly after college when his father Tim asked him to work at the local auction business, ServCorp.
In recent years Mutz more popular as an auctioneer for non-profit and benefit events since he has displayed skills that greatly multiply the success of the numerous charity functions.
“There are so many auctions held by charity groups,” he said. “And most of them get a local person to head them up. Many groups don’t realize what a big difference it would make in helping the benefit succeed if they hired a trained auctioneer.”
Mutz gave a good example of that with a story about the Archbishop Rummel annual event in New Orleans when they decided to hire him. Noting they had never gotten to $50,000 with their auction items, organizers told Mutz they were intent to at least get that high. Mutz brought in $61,000 the first year, $70,000 the second year and then sat back the third year even though Mutz was invited as a guest.
“After the second item of the night I could tell the man was struggling. They came and asked if I would take it over,” he said. “That would have been inappropriate, but I did assist for a few items as a ringman. But their total went down substantially that year and they ended up hiring me back the next year. We did over $80,000.”
Mutz said that most volunteers with charity groups don’t consider the amount of prep work a trained auctioneer does before ever taking the stage.
“You have to know your items, you have to know the cause, and you have to find personal stories to tell and that all helps people want to bid,” he said. “I spend several days preparing for an auction.
“People who come to live auctions are coming with money in their pocket to spend. It’s my job to help them do that,” he said.
Tim Mutz started working with the New Orleans Auto Storage Pool by auctioning cars in the 1970s. Business got better so he asked his son to become a trained auctioneer after he started ServCorp in Slidell.
“My voice actually was something that made me very good at it,” he said with a smile.
Taking the condensed two-week, 14 hour a day version of the required course, Mutz became the youngest licensed auctioneer in the state at the age of 18.
“The breath control I learned as a singer proved to be helpful as an auctioneer,” he said. “But I think I also became good at it since I was always the short, nerdy guy in school. I probably had a little chip on my shoulder so to be in control and do well as an auctioneer feels good. I guess I wanted to prove myself in some way.”
He has also worked in radio, thanks to his voice, and is asked to MC many big name events in New Orleans, such as the Krewe of Orpheus 13th Party Night kickoff event, where he auctioned off a George Rodriguez “Three Amigos” piece of art for $5,000.
Mutz, 49, has auctioned some pretty big events with big-money items, such as a $31,000 fishing trip on a yacht that turned into a $62,000 take when the donor stopped the bidding at $31,000 and let both bidders win the prize.
“I auctioned off a week with Sydney Torres at his Caribbean resort, flying there on his private jet, all for $30,000,” he said.
Not only does Mutz put in a lot of prep time for the events, but he brings what is called a “ring-man” who works the floor to help him not miss any bids, and encourage bidders to push higher.
“The bottom line is that it always benefits the group to have a professional running the auctions,” he added.
Mutz acknowledged his cost starts at $2,500, depending on various factors, and he still does a few pro-bono events.
“But people should realize that without paying for something you aren’t expecting value for the cost,” he said. “I know I bring a lot of value to these auctions.”
Mutz still has his day job, working in the telecom industry for over 20 years, but with the calls to auction special events continuing to increase, plus the work with ServCorp, he is hopeful to be a full-time auctioneer very soon.
“I know I bring the necessary components to the job—high energy, interactive with the crowd, and a little funny,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I certainly help the organization do the best they can with their auctions.”
Mutz can be reached at 504-324-2230 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.