How Ray Chew Became Musical Director on Fox TV's American Idol

Directing Harmony

Early training: Chew’s love affair with music began when he was a toddler. At age 5, he was awarded the Vladimir Horowitz scholarship to attend a children’s program at Juilliard. “I always knew this was what I wanted to do,” he says. “My father was a musician and I used to mimic him, but he quickly realized I had real talent.” After Juilliard, Chew attended Harlem School of the Arts, Third Street Music School Settlement, and Mannes School of Music (now Mannes College The New School for Music). He studied music every day and as a teen attended New York’s High School of Music & Art (now part of LaGuardia High School) and Manhattan School of Music. Over the years, Chew arranged, produced, and composed music, and performed at live and televised musical events.

Prep work: Chew has worked as a musical director for a variety of programs including NBC’s The Singing Bee and BET’s Sunday Best. His first professional job took him on the road with Melba Moore. In the early ’80s he was a musician on the fast-paced set of Saturday Night Live during the time when Eddie Murphy was one of the show’s “Not Ready for Prime Time Players.” In 1992, Chew came on as musical director for It’s Showtime at the Apollo. He stayed for 13 seasons, working each week with 40 to 50 contestants and professional acts. “Working on Showtime prepared me for what was to come,” says Chew. “There was a small budget, and we taped 12 shows in one weekend. It was a lot of work.”

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