By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
Boyd Tinsley is best known as the violinist of the Dave Matthews Band, which is now in its 20th year as one of the world’s most popular and successful bands. However, Tinsley is also dedicated to providing opportunities and assistance for underprivileged children in tennis, music and academics in his hometown of Charlottesville, Va., through the Boyd Tinsley Foundation. Since 2003, he has also been the title sponsor of the Boyd Tinsley Women’s Clay Court Classic, a USTA Pro Circuit tournament that is now in its 10th year and is held at The Boar’s Head Sport Club.
Back in 2006, the Boyd Tinsley courts were completed at The Boar’s Head Inn, including a state-of-the art indoor tennis facility for the tennis team of his alma mater, the University of Virginia. Tinsley started playing tennis after becoming friends with Andy Roddick, who was a fan of the band and who started sending him tennis gear to get him out on the court.
This week, the 10th Annual Boyd Tinsley Women’s Clay Court Classic included a reception before the tournament started that featured a surprise video tribute to Tinsley, thanking him for his support, and included a message from Roddick. The week continued with a kids’ clinic, in which children from Tinsley’s programs had an opportunity to hit with the pros competing in the tournament. The 32-player draw concludes Sunday.
Tinsley took some time to talk with USTA.com about his tournament, his foundation and its goals, the band, the US Open and more.
Click here for a full photo gallery of the reception and kids' clinic.
USTA.com: This is now the 10th year of this tournament, and you have been the title sponsor since 2003. Did you think when you took over that it would be so successful so many years later? How proud are you of it?
Boyd Tinsley: I really didn’t. It really blows me away, just what has happened with this tournament over the last 10 years. It has grown and grown. It has a reputation that so many women want to play at this tournament, which is great. A lot of them say this is their favorite tournament of the year. I feel great about it. I had no idea that it would turn into this. I also just finished up a kids’ clinic here this week. We had some kids from the public school program I sponsor, where they learn tennis, receive racquets. They came here and hit with the pros. It was so much fun; these kids were just having a blast. I am really happy for what has happened with this program, how it has grown and just to be a part of it.
I really appreciate the USTA being involved in this tournament, and it really makes such a big difference to us to have the active support of the organization.
USTA.com: The kids’ clinic is part of the tournament, as well. Why is that so important for the children of Charlottesville to have the chance to learn tennis through your foundation, as well as take music lessons and receive academic tutoring and to meet some of the professionals here?
Boyd Tinsley: It is great. The whole idea is that it is about opportunity. When I was a young kid, I got the opportunity to play the violin, but I only got that opportunity because there was a music group in town, a private group, that gave me money for lessons, and without that I wouldn’t have been able to take lessons. Also, in the school system, they let me borrow a violin.
I got help coming up from this community, and I just wanted to pass that on through my three programs in tennis, music and academics. I just got a statistic that 13 to 15 kids on the local high school team came through the program I sponsor, which is exactly what I was hoping for. Talent is everywhere. If you exclude people who can’t afford to play the sport, then we are missing out on a large segment of people who have talent that we would never have known about.
USTA.com: There was a tribute to you at a reception Monday night at The Boar’s Inn as a thank you from the people of Charlottesville, which included a message from your friend Andy Roddick. How surprised/touched were you by that?
Boyd Tinsley: I was very moved. It sent chills through me. Andy is such a great guy. I have to say he is really the one who got me involved in tennis. He got me playing. He was a fan of the band, and I met him at a show maybe 10 years ago. He came up and said, ‘I am going to get you out there playing,’ and he started sending me racquets, clothes and shoes. Finally I went out, started playing and loved the sport.
That whole video presentation was very special. I definitely got choked up as I was speaking. I am blown away by it. I do these things because I just feel like I have to pass on the things I have gotten, but to hear the impact of what it has done and how it has affected kids’ lives is a satisfying feeling that just lets me know that I was able to pass that on to somebody.
USTA.com: How have you seen your foundation grow since you first founded it through all three programs, and how proud are you of the difference it has made in the lives of so many kids?
Boyd Tinsley: It is really cool so many kids are involved. There are hundreds of kids that are involved in these programs. I also heard one thing that I didn’t know until the other night that there is a kid in my program who is going to Harvard, and 100 percent of the kids who were seniors in the program are going to college. It is amazing. If you just give an opportunity to young people, they will run with it. A lot of the problems that keep kids behind or not allowing them to realize their potential is they just don’t have the opportunity or don’t have someone to sit down with them and help them with their homework, or they don’t have someone to teach them music or tennis. That is all I wanted to do, that is all I was trying to do and that is all I knew that you needed to do. It didn’t take much.
When I was growing up, I got this scholarship, which was maybe the equivalent of about $15 a week, but that was enough to pay for the teacher I had for those lessons, and I also got a lot of encouragement, which is huge. It is amazing what love and encouragement do.
We also had a cello player a few years ago through this program who went to Julliard, which is the best music school in the country. These kids obviously have their natural talents, but this definitely helps them develop their talent more. If you give kids opportunities, they will excel.
USTA.com: It is the 20th anniversary of the Dave Matthews Band this year. You are not touring this year but are playing a few caravan shows this summer. Did you imagine 20 years ago that you guys would have had this kind of success and still be going strong?
Boyd Tinsley: We just keep doing what we always do. We just get up and play our hearts out and give it up every night, and fortunately the fans keep coming back. We are very blessed and very grateful for the opportunity to keep playing. I am definitely looking forward to getting back out there this summer for a few dates.
USTA.com: The DMB caravan comes to New York City in late August. Any chance you can stay for a few days of the US Open?
Boyd Tinsley: I would love to come visit. I am not sure of my schedule yet, but I would absolutely love to do that. If I am able to, I definitely will.
USTA.com: How often do you play tennis now?
Boyd Tinsley: We have had a really busy few years. I get to every now and then, if only for an hour or so. It is fun, I enjoy it. Oddly enough, there are periods where I would play five, six days a week for a couple of hours. Because of time, I can’t do that any more, but when I do get out there, sometimes I find that I play better after a long break, which is kinda cool. I have fun with it.
USTA.com: Have any other guys in the band started playing?
Boyd Tinsley: Not really. Maybe I had Dave out there one day. I think they have all sort of gone out a few times. I am definitely holding it down, the tennis tradition of DMB.
USTA.com: What’s the connection – and your message to children – between tennis and music?
Boyd Tinsley: I think that it is being able to take on something that perhaps looks as a challenge before you do it and then getting into it and realizing ‘I can do this’ and "I like this,’ and I think that is part of it – to eliminate some of that fear of things that are unknown to them and introducing them to something new.
Looking at this program, I see some of these kids... over the last few years, they are so comfortable as tennis players now, where when they first came in, they didn’t know how to hold a racquet or anything. They love the sport and just like music. The kids that maybe had never really played before, now they are playing and are enjoying playing. Some go on and play in their high school orchestras, and some go to their tennis teams, and some might not carry it on, but what they do get is self confidence that they were able to take on something challenging and to excel at it. To me, that is the thing – having the opportunity to realize a potential – and I am really pleased to see that in so many kids.