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Sexual Abuse In Classical Music

World-famous opera singer and internationally acclaimed organists face #MeToo moment
David Daniels, left, the world’s leading countertenor, is accused of drugging and raping a young male music student (Metropolitan Opera screengrab)

Last month, the Washington Post published a strong story about how the classical music world is rife with sexual abuse and harassment. This week, two new stories of sex abuse are rocking the world of opera and classical music.

First, an explosive allegation involving a gay power couple in opera:

An up-and-coming baritone singer alleges he was drugged and violently raped in 2010 by two of opera/classical music’s shining stars, David Daniels and Scott Walters.

Daniels, 52, the most famous countertenor in the world, has been a favorite of the Metropolitan Opera, while his now-husband Walters, 36, is a respected conductor.

The couple is so highly regarded that they were married in 2014 by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Samuel Schultz claims that in 2010, the same couple drugged and raped him following a performance in Texas, leaving him unconscious. He claims that he awoke the next afternoon in a strange bed, disoriented, in pain and bleeding from the rectum.

Schultz, then a 23-year-old graduate student at Rice University, says he was frightened of repercussions and hid the alleged event for years. Emboldened by both the #MeToo movement and upon learning that Daniels had made tenure at the University of Michigan — where he’d be in close personal contact with young aspiring singers — Schultz filed a complaint with the U-M Police Department’s special victims unit in July. Authorities in Michigan, in turn, passed the complaint on to the Houston Police Department.

The investigation is active and no arrests have been made, Houston police said. They declined to provide any further details.

Second, one of the world’s leading organists stands accused of years of sexual abuse of students. From the Boston Globe:

Colleges in Massachusetts and Ohio have abruptly cut ties with a Boston-area concert organist of international acclaim amid allegations of sexual misconduct dating back decades.

James David Christie, widely regarded as one of the greatest organists of his generation, has resigned his post as distinguished artist-in-residence at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, the school said Thursday. He has also left Oberlin College and Conservatory, where he was a professor of organ and chair of the organ department. Christie has played with the Boston Symphony Orchestra since at least 1980, and he served as Wellesley College organist for years.


In multiple interviews with the Globe, former students at Holy Cross and Oberlin described a consistent pattern of sexual harassment by Christie. Some said the organist used his considerable artistic standing to manipulate and cajole students, dangling before them entrance to some of classical music’s most rarefied circles. Former students also described a sexually charged environment that included lewd comments, large amounts of alcohol, and unwanted touching over a period between 1994 and 2017.


Two of the former Holy Cross students who signed the letter also described long-term sexual relationships Christie initiated with them as undergraduates. The two men, who were younger than 21 at the time, said the relationships often involved heavy drinking and unprotected sex in a variety of public spaces, including green rooms, concert halls, Christie’s office at Holy Cross, and in and around the pipe organ at the school’s Saint Joseph Memorial Chapel.

The Globe confirmed key elements of the former students’ accounts through e-mails, Facebook messages, and interviews with friends and acquaintances who either witnessed the events firsthand or learned of them soon after they occurred.

The five signatories to the Holy Cross letter were all recipients of a prestigious organ scholarship at the school, a position that involves assistant duties and close study with Christie, who has served as distinguished artist-in-residence at the school for more than 30 years.

… Wesley Hall, who studied extensively with Christie at Oberlin despite what he called the organist’s repeated unwanted physical contact, put it succinctly: “He’s the best organ teacher in America, and he could destroy your dreams.”

Read the whole thing.

The reader who sent me the piece about Christie, and who is part of his world, says:

I can vouch for it being another case of “everybody knew.” The alcohol. The lewd remarks. Now the details of the sexual abuse. … Like the article mentioned, he was the sort that could make or break your career, in what is a very tight-knit/close professional community. I mean, everybody knows JDC.

Let it all come down, these rotten structures that allow powerful men to exploit and bully and even rape others.



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