I see by the comments that this is a timely article. I highly recommend clicking the link and reading the entire article. Some excerpts from Variety:
Live band gives ‘Dancing’ lift
It’s 9:15 a.m. on a Monday morning on Stage 46 at CBS Television City. Harold Wheeler, music director for ABC’s hit “Dancing With the Stars,” is already well into rehearsal with his 17-piece band and quartet of singers for that night’s live, two-hour show.
He calls out the 3/4-time, country-flavored “Only One Road.” Standing at his keyboard, headphones on, he conducts sans baton while actress Melissa Joan Hart and her pro partner Mark Ballas waltz around the floor while the stage’s mirrored ball spins slowly, showering the room with points of light.
This is the first time that Hart and Ballas have heard what the band will play. For the previous five days, they’ve been rehearsing to a cut-down version of the original 1994 Celine Dion track.
I guess I didn’t realize they were rehearsing with cut downs right up until Monday morning. That would be…stressful for the dancers, I think. The non-pros anyway. The entire article talks about Donny talking to Harold and getting the speed adjusted – and he’s a pro! That would be pretty darn difficult for non-musicians to do, I would think. Make communicating with Harold Wheeler more challenging.
“Music is the essence of everything,” says “Dancing With the Stars” head judge Len Goodman during a break. “Without good music you will never get good dancing. Harold Wheeler and our band are unsung heroes, and the singers are fantastic. Whatever is thrown at them, they can do. Lindy hop, hip-hop, swing, every genre of music, they cope brilliantly.”
In fact, the band consists of some of L.A.’s top studio musicians and singers. Trumpeters Rick Baptist and Warren Luening, saxophonist Dan Higgins, keyboard player Tom Ranier and drummer Ralph Humphrey are among the town’s first-call players. Vocalists Darryl Phinnessee (veteran of multiple Michael Jackson Jackson tours), Carmen Carter, Beverley Staunton and Antonio Sol are not just good singers, says Wheeler, “they’re great singers.”
I think the band is great – but from time to time the singers really butcher a song, sad to say. Of course, everyone has an off night or an off performance. I guess I also never really gave them (and the band as a whole) credit for having to perform multiple genres in a given week – that is challenging.
Senior producer Erin O’Brien creates a list of “well over 1,000 songs” that the staff attempts to clear with music publishers. “And out of every 100 songs,” she says, “I may not even hear back on half. Of the rest, I may end up getting denials on half. Some artists don’t agree to the fee, some prefer that their versions get heard, and some simply don’t do business with reality shows, period.”
When the celebrities are booked, “I ask all of my dancers for song ideas and suggestions,” she adds. “We tell them, ‘tell us anything you could ever possibly want to dance to.’ Not a lot of them end up working,” she concedes.
Once tunes are cleared for use, music editor Graham Jarvis – working in the U.K. and using the internet – decides whether they are appropriate for tangos or waltzes or any of the several categories, and then creates edited versions of the songs (anywhere from 60 to 100 seconds long). It is those versions that the dancers rehearse to, until the Monday morning sessions with the live band.
I find the whole “process” of making a list of songs through the final rehearsals with the live band to be absolutely fascinating. I guess I never thought about how much has to go into just the music portion of the program. Of course I knew the Pros gave ideas and they either got cleared for use or not, but the rest of it is new and interesting information!!
I think that I vote to keep the live band – it does add an element to the show that other shows don’t have – although I think American Idol how has live music (sometimes).