In the spirit of making a joyful noise unto the Lord, Mississippi natives Brittney Dear, 22, and Dathan Thigpen, 30, took the stage by storm this season on BET's "Sunday Best." Both singers grew up singing gospel music and proudly come from strong musical roots. That prepared them for the opportunity to be on the hit gospel talent show, hosted by Kirk Franklin and judged by gospel music artists Donnie McClurkin, Yolanda Adams and Tina Campbell (of Mary Mary fame).
Dear's her father, local musician Billy Dear, was her musical inspiration. "He always encouraged me to sing, (and) if I wasn't beside him on a piano stool, I was with him at an audition," she said in a recent Jackson Free Press interview.
Dear grew up in Brandon where she could be found Sunday mornings singing in her church choir. "I've always been passionate about music, and I'm passionate about lifting people up with my music," Dear says.
Thigpen credits his father, Pastor Don Thigpen, for recognizing his abilities and appointing him as the worship leader at their church.
Thigpen's musical roots began with the Mississippi Mass Choir, which his uncle, David Curry Jr., co-founded in 1988. Thigpen's mother, Dorcus, was the choir's lead directress. At 9 years old, Thigpen led a wildly popular song, "Yes, There is Hope," with the Mississippi Children's choir.
Both Dear and Thigpen carried their rich musical heritages when they auditioned this past March for the third season of "Sunday Best" in New Orleans; both made it on the show.
"This was the first time that I performed on such a platform," Dear says.
This experience provided national exposure for both artists, although neither won the competition.
"Even yesterday, I was thanking God for the amazing opportunity," Thigpen says about his "Sunday Best" experience.