The Heroine’s Journey of Barbara Maier Gustern

What is the best thing that I love about my work?

The thing I love most about my work is that it synthesizes my varied interests – music, performing, science, psychology, and social service. I can impact vocal health, creativity, performance skills, and life in general. There is no better feeling than truly helping people.

What is my idea of perfect happiness?

To me the idea of perfect happiness is very different now than it would have been thirty years ago. Then I would have said it’s being a very successful singer. Now I say it is the ability to ride the waves of life – the ups and downs with equanimity, knowing that the downs don’t last.

What is my greatest fear?

My only fear is being helpless – being a burden to others.

What is the trait that I most deplore in myself?

I hate the fact that I think I should be able to control everything.

Which living persons in my profession do I most admire?

It’s hard to single out any one person I most admire since my field covers teaching, singing, directing, performing, and producing. But the closest I can come is Lauren Flannigan who does so much for young singers and is a world class singer herself.

What is my greatest extravagance?

My greatest extravagance is spoiling my grandson. My only child, his mother, died at 35, and I dote on him totally.

On what occasion would I lie?

Truth is a virtue that was instilled in me growing up. I may fib within the law, but to really lie would be really impossible for me. I may veil the truth to keep from hurting somebody occasionally.

What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work?

Scheduling is the thing I dislike most. I am a little obsessive compulsive, so I hate cancellations, time changes, and no shows!

When and where was I the happiest, in my work?

Until recently, I have spent a few weeks a year teaching in Mexico City. I was always blissfully happy working there.

If I could, what would I change about myself?

As I have grown older I have tried to change certain flaws in my personality, especially the tendency to say hurtful things when I am not able to control something. I am still working on this, and trying to be more flexible.

What is my greatest achievement in work?

My greatest achievement generally is that I’m able to produce healthy singers who are able to be their own unique voice. Specifically, Diamanda Galas is my greatest achievement.

Where would I most like to live?

I am so happy in New York, but would love to be able to live in Italy – probably Tuscany – for at least a year.

What is my most treasured possession?

My most treasured possession is a 1903 cash register from my grandfather’s hardware store. It’s enormous and sits in my living room

What is my most marked characteristic?

My most marked characteristic would have to be either loyalty or perseverance.

What is my most inspirational location, in my city?

The most inspirational location in the city might be the area in Dumbo near the river under the Manhattan Bridge.

Who are my favorite writers?

My favorite writers now are poets – especially Mary Oliver.

You Only Die Once. What music would I listen on my last day?

I would listen to Mozart, Strauss, The Great Americana song book, and Blondie.

Who are my heroes and heroines in real life?

My now deceased mentor, Patricia Neway, who blazed trails in opera and modern performance, every woman who helps smash the glass ceiling, Taylor Mac who is a Renaissance man in the arts, Marcel Marceau – the famous French mime who really made me question the meaning of reality, I’m not really one for idols.

Which movie would I recommend to see once in a lifetime?

To pick a movie is a tough call, but I would have to say “I Want to Live.” It made me an opponent of the death penalty.

What role plays art in my life and work?

Art is a broad term. Both art and craft play major parts in my life, but with Art with a capital A is what I strive to teach. It is what inspires me, drives, and feeds me.

Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime?

I am blessed with supporters, but the greatest one is Diamanda Galas. We have worked together since the 80’s. She makes me believe in my talent to teach.

Whom would I like to work with in 2017?

I was fortunate to work with Taylor Mac on his epic 24 hour show at St.Ann’s Warehouse. There was a whole host of artists on that project, forming a remarkable community. I would love to repeat that in 2017.

Which people in my profession would I love to meet in 2017?

I have the utmost respect for Sondra Radvanovsky, the operatic soprano. I would love to meet her. But I can’t think of any other voice teachers.

What project, in 2017, am I looking forward to work on?

I am working on a book about the technique of singing that will hopefully be done this year. I am directing a new cabaret show with Austin Pendleton and Barbara Bleier in which I will have a cameo at Pangea in NYC. Wherever you see my students, you see my work – all over the world.

What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me?

My greatest pleasure comes from teaching and working in musical and dramatic communities. My passion for developing voices and seeing unique expressions realized keeps me young and joyously involved. I will not retire! I will be hit bus running across the street at the age of 127.

Which creative heroines should Peter invite to tell their story?

Diamanda Galas, Roseanna Vitro, Penny Arcade are the artists that come to mind whose stories should be told.



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