"American Idol" hires Ray Chew as music director

Thu Dec 30, 2010 3:54pm EST
 
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By Shirley Halperin

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Among the changes for the upcoming tenth season of "American Idol" is a new music director to fill the seat Rickey Minor vacated when he left to lead "The Tonight Show" band at the end of Season 9.

The Hollywood Reporter has learned that Ray Chew, a veteran of television music shows, has been handed the title and is already hard at work coming up with arrangements for the new crop of contestants.

Chew has served as bandleader and musical director for such programs as NBC's "It's Showtime at the Apollo" and "The Singing Bee."

He also curated all the music for the 2008 Democratic National Convention, where "Idol" alum Jennifer Hudson sang the national anthem, and the inaugural ball ushering in Barack Obama's presidency in January 2009. The latter featured performances by Mary J. Blige, Shakira, Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder, and Sting, along with an unforgettable rendition of Etta James' "At Last," sung by Beyonce as the first couple had their first dance.

In fact, when it comes to music's greatest divas, Chew has pretty much worked with them all, including Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Gladys Knight and Alicia Keys, who thanked him at the 2005 Grammy Awards after winning three trophies for her second album, "The Diary of Alicia Keys."

When Keys toured for that record, Chew conducted a 63-piece orchestra for her Hollywood Bowl stop, which was later released as a DVD. More recently, he performed alongside Rihanna as the pianist and conductor on her worldwide hit, "Unfaithful."

Chew considers Quincy Jones, whom he first met as a teenager, a longtime mentor. In the 80s, he was a player on the "Saturday Night Live" band and at "Apollo," he was witness to early performances by the likes of Lauryn Hill and Ne-Yo on the show's amateur night.

(Editing by Zorianna Kit)