Homeless viola player found dead

Feb. 11, 2013 at 6:48 PM

MINNEAPOLIS, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- A homeless viola player with a "brilliant musical mind" who struggled with mental illness was found dead near the Mississippi River, Minneapolis police said.

Police said the body of Eric Larss Peterson, 42, was found Saturday near the historic Stone Arch Bridge. The Hennepin County medical examiner's office had yet to release a cause of death.

Peterson's family told the Minneapolis Star Tribune Peterson, who lived most of his life in Minneapolis, had just left a hospital Friday.

Peterson began to experience mental health issues while studying at the University of Southern California but earned his degree in viola performance from the University of Minnesota and became the principal viola for the Toledo (Ohio) Symphony Orchestra.

He also played the violin and viola with Helios, a five-member ensemble in the mid-1990s to 2001, playing at Twin Cities venues and recording two CDs.

He founded the Loring String Quartet, was a member of the Minnesota Contemporary Ensemble, and filled in from time to time with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and Minnesota Orchestra.

"He had the talent," his mother, Becky Peterson, said. "You've got to feel it, and he had it. ... He always said he was a rock star."

A friend, Angela Lewis, said he had a "brilliant musical mind" and reminded her of Peter Pan, "naive at heart and a sweet person."

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