Image Credit: Paul Morigi/WireImage.comSeasoned television music director Ray Chew (SOS Saving Ourselves — Help for Haiti; the 2008 Democratic National Convention) will likely become the new bandleader for season 10 of American Idol, EW has confirmed, replacing Rickey Minor, who left Idol at the end of season 9 to be the new bandleader on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. (The Hollywood Reporter first reported Chew landing the Idol gig.)
Chew actually joined the Idol team this month during the new Las Vegas audition round, although at press time it was unclear whether his deal had been finalized for the bandleader gig for the rest of the season. Whether audiences will get to see much of Chew and the Idol band this season, however, remains very much an open question. Idol exec producer Ken Warwick tells EW exclusively that a revamped set this season could relocate the Idol band off camera. “At the moment, the [upper] tier that was where the band was is now going to be audience,” says Warwick. “The plan is that the band will come out when required. There’s going to be a whole new kind of arena feel to the whole proceeding.” As with much of Idol, these changes could still be revised several times over, but the move would be in keeping with the newfound emphasis on the contestants as vocal performers (e.g. the consistent drumbeat that they will no longer be able to “hide behind their guitars”). The last time the band remained mostly behind the scenes on Idol was back in season 3, when the show featured vocal powerhouses Fantasia Barrino, Jennifer Hudson, and La Toya London.