If you flip on your television and you’re tuned to TPT2 – because why wouldn’t you be? – there’s a good chance that, if you hear the high pitch of  a mandolin or a fiddle, the player is Minnesota’s own acoustic virtuoso, Peter Ostroushko, who died on February 24, 2021.

For decades Ostroushko, performed for audiences across the world. Locally he was a mainstay on the Fitzgerald Theater stage as part of the musical troupe responsible for A Prairie Home Companion. He can also be heard on Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks album, which features three songs that were recorded in Minneapolis. On December 30, 1974 Oshtroushko sat in on “If You See Her, Say Hello.” He’s uncredited, but give it a listen: You will hear his unmistakable playing buoy the song. In addition to working with Dylan, he collaborated with Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris.

Along with a long list of musical recording credits, his songs have been featured by Ken Burns in his Lewis and Clark and Mark Twain documentaries. Oshtroushko also received an Upper Midwest Regional Emmy for his work on Minnesota: A History of the Land.

Freeze frame of Mister Rogers and Peter Ostroushko from 1993.

And his features do not end with documentary work. Perhaps his first appearance on a PBS program came via none other than Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Marking the 25th anniversary of their visit, Fred Rogers Productions tweeted out a short clip of their segment together.

Minnesota’s unofficial Wall of Fame at Twin Cities PBS headquarters.
Ostroushko’s brick on the wall leading to the studios at Twin Cities PBS.

When Peter was scheduled to appear in Twin Cities PBS’ Studio B, there was a certain buzz in the air. The studio crew and director involved in working these shows rose to the challenge of presenting live music. Here are three clips of Ostroushko and friends appearing live in-studio.

 

Almanac, 2013 (music begins at 1:40)

Almanac, 2003 (music begins at 1:45)

NewsNight Minnesota, 1995 (music begins at 3:27)

The results of a stroke Peter had in 2018 left him unable to play his favorite instruments. But he soldiered on and launched a podcast this fall that he called, My Life and Time as a Radio Musician. Though those of us at TPT would claim he was also a heck of a TV musician. In the podcast he brings listeners back in time to the mid-70s when he first joined the cast of A Prairie Home Companion and regales listeners with stories from his past. Thankfully, those stories – and a slew of memorable performances – are captured for posterity.

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You can also catch a glimpse of a young Peter Ostroushko dazzling the strings in the first video captured in Long Gone Minnesota: 10 Things Our Culture Has Lost.

Peter Ostroushko’s wife, Marge, remains a key force with Giving Voice Choir, an organization that empowers people living with dementia to join their voices in the power of song. Discover more about their inspiring story.  

This has been a year of loss for the local music community: In October 2020, Allan Fingerhut died, but his legacy as one of the founders of The Depot, which later became First Avenue, lives on.