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Merging Talent with Passion for Lifelong Success: Boyd Tinsley - rock violinist, Dave Matthews Band

The violin is a wonderfully versatile and powerful instrument. Lending itself to almost every genre of music, the right artist can deliver a violin performance that has the ability to lift your soul and transport you into a world of personal awe or excitement.

During the month of April, Connolly Music is celebrating these incredible artists. We’ll take a look at the lives and history of some of the most notable violinists of our time in order to examine what has driven them to become master musicians in their respective genres, and how playing the violin made it possible to achieve their level of recognition.

Kicking off our “Month of Violinists,” we’ll explore the life and accomplishments of Boyd Tinsley, rock violinist (and mandolinist) with the Dave Matthews Band to find out what makes him a modern master.


Born in Charlottesville, North Carolina on May 16, 1964, Boyd Calvin Tinsley’s early years were surrounded by a variety of musical influences. With his father the choir director at their church and an uncle who played double bass and trumpet in various live bands, this future rock star was raised on a steady diet of gospel, Motown, and jazz. These influences led to the desire to learn to play guitar when he was in middle school. But, after realizing that the stringed instrument class offered only focused on orchestral instruments, he decided to give the violin a try. And although he rapidly took to the violin, his bio on the Dave Matthews Band website quotes him as saying, “my dog and my family hated me for a good couple of years.”

During his teens, Tinsley helped found the Charlottesville-Albemarle Youth Orchestra, which is still going strong; and he studied under the guidance Isadore Saslav, concertmaster of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. However, rather than move from home when he was 16, Tinsley decided not to undertake the rigors of becoming a virtuoso in Baltimore, rather he elected to attend Charlottesville High School and focused on studying famous rock, jazz and blues musicians like legendary artists Papa John Creach and Stéphane Grappelli. Then while attending the University of Virginia, the all night jam sessions hosted by Tinsley’s fraternity brought him into contact with other music greats, and he began his solo efforts even before graduating.

When approached about playing with the Dave Matthews band in early 1991, he stated in his bio that “it was some of the most powerful stuff [he’d] heard in a long time,” and he joined the group full-time later that year. Since then, Tinsley’s powerful command of the violin has helped contribute to the universal success of the band.

Professional Pursuits

Celebrating 25 years as a group this year, Tinsley spends much of his time performing and developing new music. Much of the success of the Dave Matthews Band is due to the individual styles and talents of each member, Tinsley included, bringing a specific aspect into the composition, with the unified desire to keep expanding the music, moving it to an unknown, next level. In 2003 his debut solo album, True Reflections, was released by RCA/Bama Rags, and the title track quickly becoming a part of every concert.

Boyd Tinsley’s vocal, writing, and harmonizing talent is widely sought by other musicians in the field and he has appeared on albums with Third Day, Hootie & the Blowfish, and the Staples. He also composed an original score for ESPN’s 2006 Wimbledon coverage.

U.S. tour dates this summer are being kicked off by a benefit concert at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville on May 7, 2016. All of the proceeds collected will be applied to the Bama Works Fund, a charitable program created by the Dave Matthews Band in 1999 and administered by the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation.

Hobbies and Interests

As an avid tennis enthusiast, family man, and all-around great guy, Tinsley established the Boyd C. Tinsley Foundation and the Tennis Program as a method for investing in his home town, providing tutoring, music and tennis lessons and equipment to Charlottesville school-age students. Tinsley is quoted as saying, “I believe it’s important to give young people the opportunity to participate in sports that they would not ordinarily be able to afford.”

Tinsley’s love of music and continual desire to explore new sounds and styles has helped establish him as one of today’s modern master violinists. The fact that the Dave Matthews Band attracts fans from every walk of life around the globe, spanning multiple generations attests to universal appeal of such great musicians.

Check out this video of Boyd Tinsley performing “Lie in Our Graves” at London Brixton Academy, and you’ll understand why this contemporary violinist enjoys such recognition and respect. You can also hear more of Boyd Tinsley at the Dave Matthews Band Discography page.how music can increase intelligence