Skip to main content
Publish date:

Celebrated Minnesota musician Peter Ostroushko dies at age 67

Ostroushko, who learned his craft in the Ukrainian community of Northeast Minneapolis, had a versatile career including performances with popular artists and orchestras

Peter Ostroushko, whose mandolin and fiddle are woven into some of Minnesota’s most iconic recordings, has died. He was 67.

He died of heart failure Wednesday, his daughter, Anna Ostroushko, said on Facebook. 

“We have never known a better guy,” Anna Ostroushko said in her post. “Please listen to or play some music tonight in his honor.”

Raised in Northeast Minneapolis, where many Ukrainian families settled in the 1940s and ‘50s, Ostroushko was introduced to string instruments such as the mandolin, balalaika and bandura at a young age. He was also influenced by the Minneapolis West Bank folk scene, taking notes from musicians "Spider” John Koerner, Dave “Snaker” Ray and Tony “Little Sun” Glover. 

"Before I was even old enough to go to a bar, I used to go stand in front of the Triangle Bar ... They'd have the door open, and I could look up on the stage and listen and hear the musicians play," Ostroushko said in an episode of a podcast he began recording last year. "For me that was like going to church, standing out there, listening to these guys play music." 

At 21, he was pulled to record a mandolin track on “If You See Her, Say Hello,” for Bob Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks.” Soon afterwards, Garrison Keillor invited him to perform on "A Prairie Home Companion." Ostroushko ended up becoming a regular performer on the radio show for 40 years.  

"I did not know at this time that I had this conversation with Garrison that this was going to be a 40-year odyssey of me being on 'A Prairie Home Companion,' giving me the opportunity to become the best instrumentalist I could be on my given instruments," he said in the podcast. "It seemed like, from the first Saturday that we were on his show, that he played almost every next Saturday until the end of the year. We were on the show all the time. I guess he liked our fast fiddle music, that's all I can figure."

He released more than a dozen albums and played with the likes of Willie Nelson, Chet Atkins, Taj Mahal and Emmy Lou Harris, according to his teacher’s bio for the MacPhail Center of Music.

In addition to playing with popular folk artists, he also played Carnegie Hall with the Minnesota Orchestra. Groups including the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Kremlin Chamber Orchestra in Moscow have performed his compositions.

His music has also appeared in films such as Ken Burns documentaries and the 2005 Twin Cities Public Television documentary series, “Minnesota: A History of the Land,” for which he earned a regional Emmy. His television appearances included “Austin City Limits,” “Late Night with David Letterman,” and “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

The latest forecast from Novak Weather

Next Up

Screen Shot 2021-11-25 at 7.53.37 AM

Another 5,000 lbs. of goldfish removed from Carver County lakes

It all likely stemmed from people dumping their pets into local waters a few years ago.

Rosaleia Shelton

Appeal to find 19-year-old missing from Bloomington

The teen left her home on Monday afternoon.

hospital, emergency room

Deaths of twin fetuses after woman was shot ruled a double homicide

The woman was shot in the abdomen in mid-September.

Payton Willis / Gopher Basketball

Gophers improve to 5-0 with win over Jacksonville

The Gophers are establishing momentum early in the season.

Anthony Edwards

Ant's massive slam leads Timberwolves to fifth straight win

The dunk didn't count, but provided the highlight of the night.

Cam Talbot / Minnesota Wild

WIld arrive late, Cam Talbot stays on point to beat Devils

Despite a 30-minute delay, the Wild picked up a 3-2 victory.

Screen Shot 2021-11-24 at 4.10.54 PM

Appeal to find 35-year-old missing from Oak Grove home

Police say he's not believed to be in danger.

vote, election

7 MN Republicans urge states to audit 2020 election results

There has been no evidence of significant fraud in any single U.S. state.

child vaccine pexels

How many MN kids age 5-11 have received a COVID vaccine dose?

The governor says the state has one of the highest child vaccination rates in the U.S.

police lights

Seven juveniles arrested in connection with stolen vehicles in Woodbury

Woodbury authorities have issued a warning following a spate of auto thefts.


Musician Charlie Parr breaks shoulder skateboarding with daughter

The Austin-based artist had to undergo a three-hour surgery.

Legendary Minneapolis musician Willie Murphy dies at 75

The R&B and soul musician had complications from pneumonia.

Minnesota Orchestra

Minnesota Orchestra will live stream concerts through March

In-person concerts at Orchestra Hall through March have been canceled or postponed.

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 7.23.51 AM

Watch: Musician Jeremy Messersmith live-streams his COVID-19 test

The Twin Cities artist has self-quarantined for the past week.

Minnesota Orchestra

Minnesota Orchestra will welcome back audience members starting in June

The orchestra has been streaming its performances since the start of the pandemic.

Minnesota public radio

The Current to host virtual live concert series this weekend

Listeners can tune into The Current's Facebook page for three days of local lineups

Memorial for musician who died on stage at St. Paul restaurant

Doug James went into cardiac arrest during a set last week.

Dessa_Laura Buhman

National, local artists join compilation album series to benefit First Avenue

Artists including Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Dessa have donated songs to a new compilation project to benefit First Avenue