It’s not easy keeping current with prolific Pete Ostroushko

Peter Ostroushko has written a lot of music over 30 years.

Peter Ostroushko has written a lot of music over 30 years.

Much of it has been for the radio show “A Prairie Home Companion,” which he still contributes to; for a time, he was the program’s music director. Because the virtuoso violinist and mandolinist is continually writing music specifically for the show’s Saturday broadcasts, he tends to forget it after it’s been recorded.

“I’ve got something like close to 20 recordings out under my name — that’s a lot of material, and it’s hard to keep current with everything,” he said recently from his home in Minneapolis, where he has lived all his life.

“About a month ago, I played a concert in Mankato, Minn., with a college orchestra, and the director — he was a big fan of my music. So the orchestra comes in — about 20 people — and easily we played about 20, 25 pieces of mine that he had orchestrated, and I had to — I think it was actually the first time in my life I actually had to read my own tunes. And [the director] said, ‘Well, I just took them off your recordings; you’re the one who wrote them and played on the recordings.’ ”

Peter Ostroushko and Danny Gotham

When: 7:30 p.m. today

Where: The Eighth Step, Underground at Proctors, Schenectady

How Much: $22

More Info: 346-6204,,

Return visit

When Ostroushko performs live, he prefers to just see where the music and his collaborators — not to mention his audience — take him. He’ll be performing at The Eighth Step, at Proctors, tonight. It will be his first Eighth Step appearance in at least a decade and first since the club’s move to Proctors. “This is gonna be a new thing for me,” he said.

Longtime friend and collaborator Danny Gotham will be joining him, playing acoustic guitar. Ostroushko and Gotham, an upstate New York native, met in the 1970s and rekindled their musical relationship five years ago.

“It’s been a while since I played with Danny — actually, the last time I played with him was this past summer in Rochester, N.Y.,” Ostroushko said. “But you know, I don’t worry too much about the fact that we haven’t seen each other in five months or whatever. Danny is an exceptional guitar player, and we have a — I don’t know. Actually, of all

the wonderful, great relationships I’ve had with guitar players over the years, Danny may be one of the most comfortable I’ve played with.”

Recent recording

Ostroushko most recently released “When the Last Morning Glory Blooms,” a record featuring nine waltzes and one ballad that came out last year. Many of the songs were not planned for release — either they were written for “A Prairie Home Companion” or composed for friends’ weddings or other functions.

But he doesn’t stay in one place musically for very long, so fans can expect a good deal of new material at this show.

“Probably only a few of [the songs] at any given time are kind of current with me,” he said. “I don’t know how many tunes I’ve written since ‘Morning Glory’ came out. I tend to want to play the tunes that are more current to me.”

Even with his prodigious output, he claims he is not pursuing recording as much as he used to. But since his 1985 debut solo recording, “Sluz Duz Music,” first introduced his blend of Ukrainian, American and world music influences, he has kept up a steady release pace, with an album every year or two, while guesting on records by everyone from Bob Dylan (his uncredited appearance on “Blood on the Tracks” was his first-ever recording) to Willie Nelson.

His next project isn’t going to convince anyone that he’s about to give up recording, either. For the past few years, he has been working on a three-CD set of mandolin music spanning all of his many influences, from his Ukrainian heritage to his later fascinations with Irish, ragtime and jazz. He’s aiming for a release sometime in the spring or early summer.

“The working title at the moment — though I doubt Red House [Ostroushko’s label] will let me put it out under this title — is ‘One Man’s Descent into Mandolin Hell,’ ” he said.

Disc one will feature the Americana side of his playing; disc two begins with the traditional Ukrainian music that he grew up hearing his father play on mandolin, while moving beyond to other international influences. The third disc in the set will feature his takes on classical music, as well as his own original classical compositions.

Touring less

“I guess, for me, at the age of 58 now, I’m starting to slow down in terms of how much I travel anymore, and there’s just so much music and so little time,” he said. “I wanted to put down the music that inspired me and made me into the player that I am, kind of more in a historical context, and hopefully to inspire the next generation of players.”

To that end, he has recently taken up teaching, as his tour schedule has been winding down over the past few years.

“I find it infinitely enjoyable to impart the knowledge that I’ve learned over the last — I don’t know, I started when I was about 3 years old, so 55 years now,” he said. “[I like] watching the light bulbs go off over people’s heads. I don’t know — honestly, it makes for, I think, a much more well-rounded way of communicating to people.”

Categories: Life and Arts

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