Rockin' racket: Tinsley's tennis nets big names

It's about an hour before midnight on Monday, May 10, before Dave Matthews band violinist Boyd Tinsley finds time to chat. But for Tinsley, rock star, husband, and father of two, it may as well be dinnertime.

"Our lives start at night," he explains of himself and his band mates, "and go into the wee hours of the morning."

This particular night, he says, has been special. He's just returned home– tired and hungry, but happy– from a reception at the Boar's Head Inn for the professional tennis tournament he sponsors. Last year's Boyd Tinsley $50,000 United States Tennis Association (USTA) Women's Pro Tennis Championships featured international hottie Anna Kournikova, who was booted in the first round.

This year, Kournikova will not take the court, but some of the brightest up-and-comers began competing May 8 to increase their world rankings. Sunday's finals take place at the Boar's Head starting at 11am. Entry is free.

Though by his own telling, he's a huge fan of the sport, Tinsley says the highlight of Monday's player and member reception was something less athletic: a performance dedicated to him by kids from the Music Resource Center, a nonprofit that the Dave Matthews Band has long supported.

"It was really touching," he says in his butter-smooth baritone.

The highlight for the crowd may have been something else, however. Tinsley surprised the audience by taking the stage with Charlie Pastorfield.

"It was pretty cool," says Boar's Head Raquet Sports Director Ron Manilla. "Everyone was just going crazy."

While the tournament may be on everyone's mind right now, Tinsley's philanthropy doesn't stop there. In fact, he's known as a national spokesman for Save the Music, a program that brings musical instruments and lessons to underprivileged kids across the country. And on a local level, there's the Boyd Tinsley Fund, which gives underprivileged kids a chance for music lessons, tennis lessons, or tutoring.

"I was one of those kids," he says, "who benefited from the benevolence of another."

Once the tournament wraps up on Sunday, Tinsley will get back to his breadwinning gig. The Band, he says, will spend a few weeks rehearsing for their upcoming tour– a 60-show odyssey that will take them coast to coast over several months.

Life on the road can be tiring, but Tinsley says it's a whole different scene from the early days, when the five swingin' singles drove themselves from gig to gig.

These days all five– four of them dads– have their own tour buses, and a separate 18-wheeler to carry the gym– a necessity for Tinsley, a workout fiend whose impressive lats once served as advertising for JanSport backpacks.

The families, Tinsley says, fly out for visits.

"There are always babies on tour," he laughs. "Pretty soon we're gonna need to get a nursery."

But though he says it's "cool" to be able to bring loved ones along, one of the best parts of the tour is returning home.

"Charlottesville is a great place to come back to," Tinsley says. "The people are great; they give you space. They understand we need to be regular people."

Age: 39

What brought you here? I was born and raised in Charlottesville. It is home and always will be for me. The good hearts of the people in this community keep me here.

What's worst about living here? Traffic is not fun these days. But there's not a whole lot, honestly, bad about being here.

Favorite hangout? The coffeehouses of Charlottesville in general

Most overrated virtue? I'm a nice guy, but I definitely have my moments. I'm human like everybody.

What would people be surprised to know about you? I won a state championship for prose reading when I was in high school.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I've spent so much of my life trying to accept who I am that I've forgotten anything I'd want to change.

What accomplishment are you proudest of? The scholarship fund that I set up for children in the Charlottesville Public School System. It was the aid and caring of others that led me to my success.

What do people find most annoying about you? I sometimes fail to give a straight answer to a direct question.

Whom do you admire ? Other than my wife, who is the most caring, loving, and kind person I know, I admire the Dalai Lama. I think he sets an example for us all. He's a man who had his country taken away, and yet he still has compassion and understanding for everyone. I've never seen him not smiling.

Favorite book? One of the most memorable books that I ever read is Simple Justice by Richard Kluger. It traces the legal battles that led to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.

What subject causes you to rant? In this country, under the cloud of terrorism and what's been going on since 9/11, people accuse people of being un-American just because they don't agree with the President– it pisses me off to no end.

What thrills you about life in the 21st century? Instant access to everything– shopping online, buying music online, etc.

What creeps you out about life in the 21st century? The information superhighway; it sort of pulls people away from other people and human contact and just being close to ourselves and close to nature. I think it isolates us in a way. We should sometimes shut off our computers and TV and do things that don't require technology.

What do you drive? A Cadillac Escalade and a Dodge Viper

What's in your car CD/tape player right now? The new CD by Jem

What's your next journey? Definitely on tour– and it will be a journey. There are around 60 shows.

What's the most trouble you've ever gotten in? Next question [laughs]

What do you regret? I should have asked my wife out sooner than I did. She doesn't hold that against me; we've been married for 13 years.

Favorite comfort food? A warm brownie with vanilla ice cream and fudge on top

What's always in your refrigerator? Boca burgers and Diet Coke

Must-see TV? The last show I watched religiously was Seinfeld. I like Curb Your Enthusiasm, and I do like The Dave Chappelle Show when I get a chance to watch it.

Favorite cartoon? I watch cartoons with my kids– Clifford is a lot of fun. But I've never watched it without the accompaniment of my kids. The Flintstones were my favorite growing up.

Describe a perfect day. A sunny day is a perfect day in Charlottesville.

Walter Mitty fantasy? In another life I considered a political career. But I'm really glad I do what I do, because there's nothing else I can do.

Who'd play you in the movie? I'd like to have Denzel Washington, but I'd probably get Eddie Murphy.

Most embarrassing moment? There are some, but I'll pass.

Best advice you ever got? Follow your heart.

Favorite bumper sticker? "Practice random acts of kindness and senseless beauty." That's a message that we all need to take to heart.


Boyd Tinsley
PHOTOS BY BARNABY DRAPER

#