Dancing With the Stars has confirmed the departure of music director Harold Wheeler as the ballroom dancing series heads into its 18th season on ABC.
According to a statement on behalf of BBC Worldwide and ABC:
Our talented Music Director, Harold Wheeler, will not be joining us for season 18 of Dancing with the Stars. Since season one, Harold and his band have performed brilliant music in our ballroom for our dancers and the American viewers at home. We are grateful to him and his band for their amazing work and years of collaboration. We wish him the best of luck.
A source close to Dancing With the Stars confirmed to EW Monday that “live music will still be very much a part of the show” — but details of the new arrangement have yet to be disclosed.
According to a public Facebook post by the band’s longtime trumpet player Rick Baptist (whom EW.com readers may better recognize as Impeccably Manicured Trumpeter), Wheeler informed the 28 musicians and singers of DWTS‘ decision to nix the band via an email that suggested the orchestra and singers would be replaced by a small electronic band… in an attempt to reach a younger demographic.
“Growing up, my main inspiration was watching and listening to incredible musicians on TV,” said Baptist. “I think we are all aware that this is another step toward the sterilization of our society to the arts in general.”
The American Federation of Musicians (AFM) has issued a press release in support of Wheeler and the original orchestra and singers.
“People who love Dancing with the Stars also love the superb performances of the orchestra because it is such an integral part of the show,” said AFM president Ray Hair. “The tight, elaborate musical productions that catapulted the show into the top 10 in 17 countries can’t be duplicated by recordings and a small combo. Viewers, whether they are young or old, will reject that as artistic fraud.”