Harold Wheeler (musician)

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Harold Wheeler
Birth nameWilliam Harold Wheeler Jr.
Born (1943-07-14) July 14, 1943 (age 80)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
LabelsRCA Victor

William Harold Wheeler Jr. (born July 14, 1943),[1] is an American orchestrator, composer, conductor, arranger, record producer, and music director. He has received numerous Tony Award and Drama Desk Award nominations for orchestration, and won the 2003 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Orchestrations for Hairspray.


Wheeler first worked in the 1960s as the musical director (MD) for Burt Bacharach making him the first African-American MD of a major pop act. He also was doing arranging for Tony Orlando and Nina Simone during that time. He was named Music Conductor for the 76th Academy Awards, becoming only the second African-American conductor in the academy's history. He also was a music arranger on the 79th Academy Awards. Wheeler was one of two conductors (the others being fellow composers John Williams and Paul Shaffer) during the closing ceremonies of the 1996 Summer Olympics.

Wheeler was the musical director on the ABC Network show, Dancing with the Stars for the show's first 17 seasons.[2] In January 2014, it was announced that former American Idol bandleader Ray Chew would take over as musical director for the show's 18th season.


In 2008, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the NAACP Theatre Awards In 2019, he received a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theater.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Wheeler was born in St Louis, Missouri. He attended Howard University, where he met his future wife, actress Hattie Winston.[4]



Partial discography[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Bernard Purdie


  1. ^ Biography. Interview Date: 10/3/2005 Archived 2017-06-18 at the Wayback Machine The HistoryMakers. 2017. Retrieved June 17, 2017
  2. ^ "'Dancing With the Stars' fires Harold Wheeler, band". USA Today. February 4, 2014. Retrieved February 24, 2014.
  3. ^ "Full List of the 2019 Tony Award Nominees (Published 2019)". The New York Times. 30 April 2019. Retrieved 31 January 2021.
  4. ^ "Harold Wheeler – The HistoryMakers". www.thehistorymakers.org. Retrieved 10 September 2017.
  5. ^ "Harold Wheeler". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved November 29, 2020.
  6. ^ "The Harold Wheeler Consort". Discogs. Retrieved 26 May 2017.
  7. ^ a b "Harold Wheeler". IMDb. Retrieved 11 August 2012.

External links[edit]