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City Desk

Professor, author, photographer and singer-songwriter, Butte’s own Chad Okrusch



Editors Note: A previous version of this article published on 9-9-2018 said incorrectly that Chad had played Japan He had played in China. The corrected article is below.

Sept. 12, 2018
by Diane Larson

“For some musicians or songwriters, they make a conscious decision, ‘I’m going to try music out,’ but for some of us it isn’t an option, it’s a compulsion to do it,” explained Chad Okrusch.

Singer, songwriter, author, photographer and tenured professor Chad Okrusch is a man whose passion lies in the town where his roots are embedded and expresses that love through his songs and music.

Speaking about the influence of Butte on his music, Okrusch said, “This place definitely, the spirit, this history, the character of the people and the landscape, all those things factor into the music that is expressed here.” The evidence can be found in other local singer-songwriters as well.

Okrusch was born and raised until the age of 4 in Butte. His parents, both finding work in Seattle, at that time, moved the family. This was the late 1970s and the economy of Butte was experiencing a “downward trend that continued throughout the twentieth century, until mining operations ceased in 1985 with the closure of the Berkeley Pit,” according to Wikipedia. Times were more than tough.


From the age of four, Okrusch lived in Seattle. He attended school there until the age of 12 when his parents divorced and he moved with his mother back to Butte to be with family.

Okrusch’s love for music began developing at a young age, he was always influenced by his surroundings, wherever he was, rooting himself to the people and the land. “I was a rapping, break-dancing Seattle kid who felt really comfortable in the shadow of Mount Rainier,” said Okrusch. The music in him grew, developed and molded over the years as he did.

“I bought a pawn shop guitar when I was a junior in high school,” said Okrusch. He finished high school and began his college/university career. At the age of 19, Okrusch started his family. He went on to get his bachelor’s, masters and Ph.D. Anyone who has done this knows it is not an easy feat.

Raising a family and going to school was an experience, “the step up from bachelors to a master’s was an order of magnitude intensity than from a master’s to a Ph.D. was another. Intense study, reading and writing continually.

It was during this time in school in Oregon when he wrote ‘St. Patrick’s Day at the M&M,’ from his first album, ‘Wisdom Road,’



“I was raising a family, we were far from home and I had never read so much and written so much and trying to maintain everything. I hadn’t seen the sun in so long. It was March 17th and rainy in a little apartment. I flipped on the M&M web-cam. I saw my people, ya know, whooping it up and I missed home so bad at that point,” said Okrusch.  He was in graduate school the first year in Oregon and hadn’t seen the sun for 9 months.

‘St. Patrick’s Day at the M&M’ is his love song to Butte.

By the time Okrusch was finished with school, with the exception of his thesis they moved back to Butte, something he never planned on doing. His ex-wife’s father had died and they needed to move back to take care of his ex-wife’s mother.

Luckily the “one job that I was qualified for at Montana Tech was open and the one job that my wife was qualified for in cardiac care was also open, so we came home,” Okrusch said. They have lived here ever since; Okrusch is tenured at Montana Tech and is the Department Head of Professional and Technical Communications.

Okrusch’s music comes from just about everywhere and finds inspiration all over. “Geez it’s the universe, it’s a combination of genetic gifts and environmental circumstances,” explained Okrusch when asked where his passion for music comes from. He went on to say that he was always compelled to poetry and creation. “I wrote poems as a young kid,” said Okrusch.

Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ and Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ were two of the first albums that Okrusch ever owned. Both artists are among those that influence his music, “I think he [Prince] is a genius,” said Okrusch.

When performing, if he is not singing his own original material, he may be covering a Prince song and swing easily into a John Prine. The spectrum of what he likes is influenced by and covers is vast. 

During his time in Oregon, Okrusch played music in groups with fellow students and got a lot of encouragement. His peers would tell him that performing and singing live was certainly something he was good at and could pursue. “I just kind of laughed and said thanks,” said Okrusch.

Then when they moved back to Butte, Okrusch found that he missed playing and felt compelled to continue that in Butte. He wanted to share his songs, but unfortunately, there wasn’t much going on in Butte for performers at the time. “So—you create the world in front of you, so I created events, I created ‘Tech Unplugged.’Tech Unplugged was a place where we could, music makers that is, share our songs and art." Other Butte natives and local songwriters, such as Heather Lingle and Sean Eamon were able to share their gifts at this venue.

Okrusch loves teaching, fishing and raising his three girls, He continues to write songs and performs all over. He said that he likes playing in most any type of venue. He has played large festival audiences and at small campfires. He has played in China and Livingston’s Murray Bar. Okrusch said, “Any place where people are listening is my favorite place.”




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