Wheeler, who has been with the show since its inception, will take his 28-member group of musicians and singers with him. "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," ABC and BBC Worldwide Production said in a joint statement. "We are grateful to him and his band for their amazing work and years of collaboration. We wish him the best of luck."
Although ABC said that Wheeler would be replaced by another band for Dancing's upcoming 18th season, American Federation of Musicians president Ray Hair blasted the network for replacing the band with a heightened use of preexisting sound recordings. "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," Hair said. "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."
Dancing with the Stars has started using recordings more in recent years as the show's playlist has moved to more modern music. "It's not like ABC and Disney don't have any money and can't afford an orchestra. It's about the insatiable thirst for profits at the expense of music, art, and those who create it," Hair continued. "Firing the band, using recordings, and hiring fewer musicians won't boost ratings. It will kill the show."
Dancing with the Stars recently downsized from a two-night-a-week show to one night a week.