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

Directing Harmony

Current responsibilities: At American Idol, Chew works on rehearsals and contributes to camera blocking and staging. He also produces music for iTunes downloads and works in the studio with contestants as a producer and mixer. “There is not a lot of time and there is no room for error. We produce 10 to 12 songs over a weekend, master them by Tuesday, and have them on iTunes by Wednesday.”

Navigating challenges: Chew acknowledges that challenges occur in every job, but his philosophy is to resolve them quickly and leave no issues lingering. “We have artist challenges, scheduling difficulties, and sometimes creative challenges,” he says. “A producer may have one vision and the artist another. I have to navigate between the producers and artists.” During President Barack Obama’s first inauguration, Chew was at the helm of the music for the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball. Stevie Wonder was on the show, and its tight schedule left little time to rehearse. Sting and Stevie were singing a song together, and during a commercial Stevie wanted to make a change. “I was jotting down the changes to explain them to the musicians. Next thing I know the countdown begins and we’re back on the air–and it worked out.” Chew understandably lists the event as a significant career highlight, to say the least. Working frantically, his musical team couldn’t take time to enjoy the momentous day–until the president took the oath of office. “We never stopped production,” says Chew, “but this was such an historic and emotional event that everyone took time to soak in the moment.”