DWTS hires Idol’s former music director, and will still have live musicians, singers

After firing band director Harold Wheeler and the live band earlier this week, Dancing with the Stars announced it has hired American Idol‘s former music director, Ray Chew, who will lead a group of “live musicians and singers.” So it did not actually drop a live band, which I praised it for doing earlier this week, the show just dropped the live band it had.

ABC said in a press release that Chew will have a band that features “a new line-up of live musicians and singers performing music ranging from the latest pop hits to the great standards of the past.” Executive producer Conrad Green insisted that “[l]ive music is the lifeblood of DWTS and we couldn’t be more excited to be working with Ray and his talented band.”

Why fire one band only to hire another? Because of pushback from a union, I’d guess this was written to emphasize that live music is not going away, though I’d expect the show will continue its increasing use of pre-recorded music.

However, the key to the difference is probably in this part of Chew’s press release quote: He said he will “utilize first class live vocalists, arrangers, copyists and musicians of all instruments.”

I read “first class live vocalists” as an acknowledgement that the previous live vocalists rarely worked, and it sounds like this will be something new on many different levels. At least, the group he pulls together probably won’t exactly resemble the previous orchestra, but will hopefully be a significant improvement.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.