UM professor, opera singer takes leave amid sex assault allegation

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News
David Daniels

A renowned opera singer who teaches at the University of Michigan has taken a leave of absence this fall amid claims he and his partner sexually assaulted another performer nearly a decade ago, school officials confirmed this week.

David Daniels, whom the UM Board of Regents promoted this year to a professor with tenure in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, agreed to the leave, a university spokeswoman, Kim Broekhuizen, told The Detroit News.

“We are aware of the allegations and are reviewing the situation,” she said in an emailed statement. “At the University of Michigan, every report we receive, in whatever form, is taken seriously and is carefully reviewed for appropriate action. 

“We believe that no one should ever be subjected to discriminatory harassment or sexual misconduct. We are deeply committed to the creation and support of a safe and productive learning environment for all our students, faculty and staff.”

Reached by phone Thursday night, Daniels said: “I deny all allegations as they are completely false.” He declined to comment further. 

His partner, Scott Walters, who is listed as affiliated with the Out Loud Chorus, a mixed LGBTQ choir in Washtenaw County, said in an email: "The only comment we have at this time is the allegations are false."

Daniels, who earned a master’s degree from UM in 1992, has appeared with major opera companies around the world and made history as the first countertenor to give a solo recital in the main auditorium of Carnegie Hall, according to his website. He has also performed in Ann Arbor and at the Detroit Opera House.

News of his leave came after the New York Daily News reported Wednesday that the couple was accused of raping a singer after a performance at the Houston Grand Opera in May 2010.

The accuser, Samuel Schultz, wrote in a Facebook post last month that he had been attacked by individuals he would only identify as “a celebrated opera singer and his boyfriend” while pursuing a master’s degree.

Then a 23-year-old Rice University student, Schultz was connected through a friend then accepted an invitation to see Daniels perform and, later, visit the couple's apartment, he said.

Schultz told the Daily News that the pair  gave him a drink before he passed out. The publication reported he recalled awaking the next day nude and bleeding.

Fearing reprisals, the singer shared details with few people and chose until recently not to speak about it publicly, he said Thursday. Inspired bythe #MeToo movement, he opted to share his story online.

"The fear is crippling and people have lived with these secret horrors for so long, it is incredibly difficult to come forward," said Schultz, 32, who has performed with the Washington National Opera. "I hope that with me sharing the truth of what happened to me, other people will find the strength in their own time to come forward and say: 'Never again.' "

After his online post spread, UM police contacted Schultz last month and he filed a report with their Special Victims Unit, he said.

UM turned over his account to Houston police, which opened an investigation and is handling the case, Deputy Police Chief Melissa Overton said.

Houston Police Department officials said Friday they could not disclose details.

Perryn Leech, managing director at the Houston Grand Opera, said in a statement Thursday:  “We are deeply concerned to learn this news. It is very much in opposition to the professional environment we strive to provide. We will cooperate with any law enforcement inquiries and launch our own investigation once we know the full range of the allegations.”

Daniels is slated to appear next year in a San Francisco Opera production of "Orlando," according to the company. 

Opera officials are aware of the allegations, representatives said in a statement Thursday. "While the reported incident from 2010 did not occur at San Francisco Opera, the Company is taking this very seriously and is independently looking into the matter."

When asked about Daniels' leave and the possibility of further actions taken, Schultz said: "I have no interest in putting pressure on institutions to do anything. What I have an interest in is making sure that people know that their bodies and minds are valued."

Staff Writer Sarah Rahal contributed