Barbara Maier Gustern is an 80-year-old classically trained singer in New York City. She teaches singing lessons out of her two-bedroom apartment in Chelsea. For decades, she’s taught a wide range of singers: Argentinian and opera singers, aspiring cantors, the Grammy-nominated vocalist Roseanna Vitro. But she’s become a favorite among the edgy and powerful voices of New York’s downtown queer, performance and rock scenes: Her students include Debbie Harry, Taylor Mac, Justin Vivian Bond, John Kelly, Lady Rizo, Penny Arcade, Handsome Dick Manitoba, Miss Guy and Kathleen Hanna.
Barbra Maier Gustern
A shared love of dirty jokes and wild performances made her an unlikely matriarch to this talented and raunchy family of artists. The avant-garde composer and musician Diamanda Galas called Barbara, “the baddest bitch in New York City."
Reported by Nicole Pasulka. Produced by Nicole Pasulka and Jenna Weiss-Berman.
Photo: Michael Blase