Central perk: DMB provides the sound of money

"We're psyched," says Boyd Tinsley, violin player for the Dave Matthews Band, as he talks about the outdoor concert that could simultaneously carry his group into the history books while helping a struggling Charlottesville institution find a permanent home.

In a telephone interview conducted two hours after joining Matthews, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg to announce the concert at famed Central Park, Tinsley was still buzzing.

"It's pretty cool when the mayor of one of the world's greatest cities says, 'Hello, Boyd, it's nice to meet you.' I was pretty blown away."

The 39-year-old Tinsley says he's particularly thrilled that the benefit performance is expected to raise enough money to give the Music Resource Center, a music and educational center for urban Charlottesville youth, a permanent home at the former sanctuary of Mt. Zion Church on Ridge Street.

Over the summer, the Mt. Zion congregation moved to a new structure on South First Street and vacated this landmark. Built by freed slaves in 1884, it stands at 105 Ridge Street between the Lewis & Clark statue and the bridge over the CSX train tracks.

The outdoor concert, sponsored by AOL, happens Wednesday, September 24. While ticketed attendance is officially limited to 70,000, "I have a feeling," Tinsley chuckles, "quite a few more will be in the vicinity."

Since 1981, with Simon & Garfunkel's first reunion (they just announced another), Central Park has become "park of the world," says Chris Coffey, spokesperson for Mayor Bloomberg. He says the park's Great Lawn has recently been reconfigured, so attendance probably won't reach the half million claimed by Simon & Garfunkel and by country star Garth Brooks.

Still, says Coffey, "This is going to be a huge event for New York."

Tinsley says it'll be a huge event for the band, too. Not that Tinsley is a stranger to Central Park. On August 22, he joined soon-to-be U.S. Open tennis champion Andy Roddick in a clinic for 75 of the city's top young players. "Andy did most of the work," says Tinsley. "I just this year starting playing tennis."

Local racquet buffs have Tinsley to thank for bringing Anna Kournikova here in May. However, in the first round of the Boyd Tinsley $25,000 USTA Women's Tennis Championships at the Boar's Head Sports Club, Kournikova fell to No. 384-ranked Bruna Colosio. While the photogenic star of the women's tennis circuit didn't stay long in Charlottesville, "I just ran into her," says Tinsley, "at the U.S. Open and said hello."

Such is the life of a famous fiddlers.

The Central Park concert comes just a day after the scheduled release of Some Devil, the first solo album by Dave Matthews. Tinsley released a solo album of his own in June, True Reflections, and despite a few scathing reviews, Tinsley says he likes the response.

"I'm pleased with the reviews," he says. "Oddly enough, I've only seen two or three bad ones."

Tinsley also disputes any notion that solo projects threaten the long-lasting group, which stands poised to wrap 2003 as one of the biggest touring acts in North America. Pollstar magazine currently puts DMB in the #6 slot with an average gross of $1.2 million per city.

"We still feel like we're at the beginning," says Tinsley. "We're just about playing music– that's the only common bond among us for 12 years."

As for Central Park, Tinsley brushes aside comparisons with Simon & Garfunkel. "They're legends," says Tinsley, "and we can't touch that."

The Band will surely touch the Music Resource Center. Originally located above Trax, the club made famous as the proving ground for the DMB, the Center became a vagabond last year when Trax was demolished.

"We're hoping that our fans will give generously," says Tinsley, of the ostensibly free concert, which also supports New York City schools. Ticket information is available at aol.com/dmbtix.

"This caught us by total surprise" says Fritz Berry, president of the Music Resource Center's board. "We couldn't be more thrilled."

Berry says the move to a temporary home on Forest Street, just off Rose Hill Drive on the city's north side, made access difficult for many of the teens, most of whom walk to the Center. The old Mt. Zion sanctuary is more centrally located.

Jonathan Hornsby, a noted songwriter, founded the Center in 1993. "The Center wouldn't be here today," says Hornsby, "if it weren't for God answering the prayers of a lot of people."

Although Sunday services have ended there, it appears that the former Mt. Zion sanctuary will continue to answer prayers. Developer Gabe Silverman says he purchased the structure– for $500,000 in July– without a prospective tenant in mind.

"We didn't know who or what," says Silverman. "So we were overjoyed when we were approached by Fritz Berry of the Music Resource Center. It's amazing," he says, "what this band has done for this little town."

The new home of the Music Resource Center.


"The mayor's really cool," says Boyd Tinsley (center). He grips and grins at Central Park's Belvedere Castle with NYC mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and David J. Matthews at a September 12 press conference.