Renowned Vocal Coach, 87, Dies After ‘Unprovoked’ NYC Attack
Barbara Maier Gustern, 87, was left in critical condition when she was shoved down from behind without provocation while walking near her apartment in the Chelsea neighbourhood last Thursday evening, causing her head to strike the pavement.
The classically trained singer had taught numerous musical, opera and popular music stars including Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry, drag artist and playwright Taylor Mac, feminist punk vocalist Kathleen Hanna, and cast members in the 2019 revival of the Broadway musical Oklahoma!
On Tuesday, however, her grandson AJ said via her Facebook page that she had died at 11.15am local time.
“Today we have lost one of the brightest little flames to ever grace this world,” said AJ.
“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.”
In a previous post announcing Ms Gustern’s injury, AJ said: “I am incomprehensibly broken inside… do what you can for your fellow human being, no matter how small. Make the time. Preventing needless loss and violence like this starts with us as individuals. We must care more for each other.”
Police released surveillance footage of Ms Gustern’s suspected attacker, showing a young woman with pale skin and red hair wearing a black jacket over a white skirt or dress, black tights or leggings, and a black scarf or choker.
Friends and relatives told The New York Times that Ms Gustern initially remained conscious after the injury, telling one friend: “I’ve never been hit so hard in my life.”
She reportedly gave the police a description of her attacker and said that the woman shouted a a derogatory term before pushing her.
That night, friends said, she had been rushing to Joe’s Pub at the Public Theatre to watch one of her students perform. She usually taught singers in her own apartment, working 10 hour days.
Just before her death, AJ told The New York Times: “She’s just a ball of light in a world that is often dark and doesn’t make any sense.”