Barbara Maier Gustern, the 87-year-old singing coach to Broadway and New York’s downtown cabaret scene, died today of injuries sustained in a random street attack last week.
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Her death was announced by her grandson AJ Gustern, who wrote on her Facebook page, “Today, at 11:15AM, we have lost one of the brightest little flames to ever grace this world.”
“I ask that you all give me a little time and space, but I want to make time for anyone and everyone who wants to know more about her final moments,” AJ Gustern continued. “Bobbob, I love you, you are and always will be my heart. I love you all so much, I could not have made it through these past 5 days without all of your support.”
The shoving attack on the singer and vocal coach outside her apartment in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood left Gustern with severe brain trauma. Although she was able to give EMS workers a description of the incident — in which she was shoved from behind by an unknown woman — she lapsed into a coma en route to Bellevue Medical Center.
Gustern, who coached the cast of Daniel Fish’s acclaimed 2019 Broadway revival of Oklahoma!, was on her way to the Public Theater’s Joe’s Pub venue to watch the performance of a student on March 10 when she was shoved to the ground from behind by an unknown woman. Crime Stoppers NYPD released security images of the suspect, who police described as a female with long dark hair wearing a black jacket and a white skirt or dress.
No arrests have been made.
Gustern’s students have included playwright and actor Taylor Mac, performer Justin Vivian Bond and Blondie’s Debbie Harry. Earlier in the evening of the attack, she was rehearsing an upcoming cabaret show at her Chelsea apartment with her collaborators Barbara Bleier, Paul Greenwood and actor-playwright Austin Pendleton when she left to attend the Joe’s Pub concert.
A suspect in the attack was caught on surveillance video apparently in the moments after the incident. NYPD released the video and is asking the public for information.
On Monday, New York State Sen. Brad Hoylman shared the video on his social media accounts:
Barbara Maier Gustern, an 87-year old Chelsea resident, was attacked on West 28th Street on Thursday at around 9:30 pm. The suspect is a woman with long dark hair who remains at large.
🚨 If you have information call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-8477 (TIPS)pic.twitter.com/WtDp0bLGv0
— Senator Brad Hoylman (@bradhoylman) March 14, 2022
Earlier on the day she was attacked, Gustern wrote what would be her final message on Facebook, taking note of the optimism she was feeling.
“Is there a sudden shift in planetary alignment?,” she wrote. “Something is cosmically different for me. I went through a period of feeling detached. I couldn’t remember lyrics. I felt like my voice had totally abandoned me. The thought of doing a show was like sentencing me to be tortured.
“But as of today all that is reversed,” she continued. “I feel full of creativity, joy at working on a beautiful show with people I adore and totally respect. I feel like a singer again for the first time in forever. What happened? I haven’t a clue. But whatever it is I am more than grateful.”
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