Bill Monroe once said, “Bluegrass has brought more people together and made more friends than any music in the world.” Well, Connor Ostrow is the epitome of that quote, as he creates community by bridging all age gaps on stages across our town, state, and someday, country. I’ve witnessed his musical partnerships with the youngest of students as an instructor at the Friendly School of Folk Music; with award-winning teen performers through his Basement Bluegrass band; with local sensations like Ethan Kinsella and Matthew Francis Andersen; with the legendary Oak Park Farmer’s Market players. Connor Ostrow continues to amaze his audiences as an old soul, a youthful spirit, and a kick-ass fiddle player.
How did you get started in music?
I started playing music as soon as I could, mostly playing washboard at the Oak Park Farmer's Market. I started taking fiddle lessons from Rachel Baiman when I was four.
Who are your influences?
My biggest influences are Kenny Baker, Byron Berline, Benny Martin, Paul Warren, Mike Casey and Michael Cleveland.
How do you describe your style?
Most of the time I play Bluegrass fiddle.
What is your favorite part of performing?
I enjoy bringing Bluegrass to a new audience, whether that’s through performing or teaching, in private classes or at public events, on stages or block parties, no matter. It’s about sharing the music.
What is something surprising about you?
I'm not very surprising. But some people might not know that I compete in fiddle competitions locally and statewide. (He failed to mention that he’s the 2015 Illinois State Fair Fiddle Champion! Go Connor!)
A Fan’s Two-Cents: I asked Connor to expound on his passion for Bluegrass and the legends he looks up to. He told me that music with deep roots and history, like Bluegrass, can’t be played properly without the knowledge and appreciation for it. Wise words, indeed, and that’s what makes Connor stand above the rest. Luckily, he’s found like-minded musicians with which to explore and create the style and sound of this traditional genre. I can’t say enough about this young man. He’s quiet and reserved in verbal conversation, but when Connor has that fiddle resting against the crook of his neck, his strings speak with enthusiasm and joy. He’s got an intuitive vibe that can’t be denied. So, if you want to be inspired, just stop by the Friendly Tap on Friday, August 12 (and every second Friday) when Connor performs with The Side Winders, a honky-tonk band with Ethan Kinsella. FYI: The last time I saw them perform, they had people dancing on the sidewalks!
At Friendly Tap, July 8, 2016. Connor Ostrow, Ethan Kinsella, and Mike Drassler
Connor Ostrow & Joe Merkle of The Basement Bluegrass Band @ the Square Roots Festival!