Beloved 87-Year-Old Broadway Singing Coach Dies After Random Attack in New York

Barbara Maier Gustern, a beloved Broadway singing coach, died on Tuesday morning, days after she was the victim of a random attack near her Manhattan apartment building. She was 87. Gustern recently coached the cast of the 2019 Oklahoma! revival and worked with singer Debbie Harry.

"Today, at 11:15 AM, we have lost one of the brightest little flames to ever grace this world," Gustern's family wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday. "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. Bob bob, 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." A high-ranking police official also told the New York Post that Gustern died from her injuries.

Gustern was pushed from behind after leaving her home on West 28th Street at around 9:30 p.m., police said, reports The New York Times. She struck her head on the sidewalk. Friends at her apartment for a rehearsal told police they opened the lobby door to see her covered in blood. A witness took Gustern back to the building, where they called emergency medical responders.

"I've never been hit so hard in my life," Gustern told her friend Barbara Bleier before she was taken to a hospital. Gustern gave the police a description of her attacker. She said the woman yelled a derogatory term before pushing her.

After the attack, Gustern's condition worsened. She was taken to Bellevue Medical Center for an emergency brain surgery, her grandson AJ Gustern told the Times. "She is not well," AJ Gustern said Sunday. "Doctors say should she recover, she will not be where she was."

New York police released surveillance video of Gustern's attacker walking near Gustern's apartment. They described the suspect as a woman with long hair, last seen wearing a black jacket, leggings, a white skirt or dress, and dark shows. No arrests have been made yet.

Gustern moved to New York City from Indiana, aspiring to become a Broadway star herself. She was married to the late actor Joe Gustern, who performed in The Phantom of the Opera. After her own singing career did not take off, she became a successful singing coach. "I'm very, very fortunate," Gustern told the Post in February 2020. "I've got enough money and tons of friends. When I'm teaching these people, I haven't the foggiest notion we're not the same age."