Peter Ostroushko is regarded as one of the finest mandolin and fiddle players in acoustic music. As one critic said: “Peter Ostroushko can play anything! And usually does.” The Emmy Award winning composer has toured all over North America and Europe, has played on over a thousand albums and has earned an international reputation as a versatile and dazzling musical master.
Peter’s recording contributions stand tall alongside the great Nashville session men of his generation, and he’s at home in virtually every style of music. His first recording session was an uncredited mandolin performance on Bob Dylan’s masterpiece Blood on the Tracks. Since then he’s played country (with Jethro Burns, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Chet Atkins and Johnny Gimble); bluegrass (with Norman and Nancy Blake, Tim O’Brien and Hot Rize); folk (with Greg Brown, John Hartford, Robin & Linda Williams and Taj Mahal); jazz; and most recently, classical—performing with the Saint Paul Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Symphony Orchestra and Kremlin Chamber Orchestra in Moscow.
He is at his best when he plays his own compositions – a rich musical stew of various ethnic influences. His family immigrated to the U.S. from the Ukraine after World War II and he was raised in Minneapolis’ Ukrainian neighborhood. As a child he listened as family members gathered on weekends to play traditional folk music. Ostroushko blends these roots with other Old World sounds (from Scandinavian schottisches to Irish hornpipes) and he mixes in classical, jazz, bluegrass, folk, swing, and old-time. He calls this gumbo of musical styles slüz düz, a phrase borrowed from his mother meaning, roughly, “over the edge” or “off his rocker.”
Ostroushko’s resumé is dizzying in its size and scope. He has played lead ukulele with the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra (under the direction of Sir Neville Mariner) and has toured with them under the direction of Edo DeWart playing mandolin in a Mahler symphony at Carnegie Hall. With the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, he’s performed a number of Baroque mandolin concertos by both Vivaldi and Paisiello and he has also performed a number of his own scores with them, with famed violin virtuoso Gil Shaham as guest soloist. He’s barked like a dog on Late Night with David Letterman and appeared on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood (whose other rare musical guests have included Wynton Marsalis and Yo-Yo Ma). He’s composed and performed scores for a number of theater companies across the country, including The Children’s Theater Company in Minneapolis, Actors Theatre Company of St. Paul (with whom he traveled to Edinburgh’s famed Fringe Festival), The Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Madison Repertory Theater and ACT Theatre in Seattle. He’s appeared on radio and television shows including Mountain Stage, Good Evening, TNN, Lonesome Pine, Austin City Limits, and A Prairie Home Companion, where he was a regular performer and one of the show’s music directors.
Peter’s recordings reflect the breadth of his influences, eclecticism, and sheer talent. They include Down the Streets of My Old Neighborhood and Slüz Düz (both on Rounder Records), and on Red House Records: Peter Ostroushko presents the Mando Boys; Buddies of Swing (featuring Jethro Burns, Johnny Gimble, Red Maddock and Butch Thompson); his acclaimed 1989 release Blue Mesa; and Duo, his 1992 collaboration with acoustic guitar wizard Dean Magraw (named one of Ten Best Folk Albums of the Year by Pulse Magazine). His highly acclaimed 1994 release, Heart of the Heartland, won a NAIRD (National Association of Independent Record Distributors) Indie Award for Acoustic Instrumental Album of the Year, and was used by filmmaker Ken Burns in his 1997 PBS documentary Lewis and Clark. Pilgrims on the Heart Road, the second release of the “Heartland” trilogy, also garnered heavy praise earning a place on Pulse! Magazine’s Top Ten List for 1997. The album Sacred Heart completed the trilogy. Cinematic in nature, it has the ability to evoke mental images and transport the listener across geographic space effortlessly. With its lush, spiritual instrumentation, the album virtually soars. In 2002, Peter released the critically acclaimed Meeting on Southern Soil (Red House) with flat-picking legend Norman Blake following with Coming Down from Red Lodge (Red House) in 2003.
In 2005, Peter won an Emmy Award for his original score for the PBS series Minnesota: A History of the Land, which movingly conveyed the feeling of Minnesota’s epic landscapes and history, giving voice to places and people long gone. He followed that up with Postcards: Travels With a Great American Radio Show, taking his photographic style on the road, sending his impressions of America’s cities and small towns through his driving instrumental tunes.
Peter now releases a new album that is rooted in his heartland home. When the Last Morning Glory Blooms contains personal tunes he wrote for friends and family that seem universal in their ability to convey love, playfulness, and the yearning for home.