Dannetta Lynn Rivers' talent and faith are taking her across the country this summer as part of the annual Move Tour, an 18-city tour of contemporary Christian musicians who aim to encourage young people in their belief in God.
Rivers, a Beaufort native, said making her singing dreams a reality has been hard work, but very fulfilling.
"I feel like I am growing as an artist with this," she said. "Everything moves so fast."
Since beginning the tour July 14, Rivers has been on the road with a group of more than 22 musicians, including BET's "Sunday Best" Jessica Reedy, hip-hop artists Da' T.R.U.T.H. and The Ambassador, R&B/hip-hop crooner Sean Simmonds, urban pop artists B.Reith, Jai and "hip-hop theologian" Shai Linne.
Never miss a local story.
So far, she said she has learned a lot on the tour, which ends Aug. 19.
"I'm still getting my bearings," Rivers said of singing in a different venue each night. "One of the challenges is even if you can't hear well, you have to know your music well enough so you still know where you are in the song."
On the road, Rivers is finding that audiences are receptive and, while they might not be familiar with her songs, she said they can identify with her as a person, sometimes coming up to her after a concert to share their struggles.
"I love music, and I love to sing, but my passion is to help other people reach their dreams," Rivers said.
She credits her family and her church for encouraging her throughout the years. The 32-year-old always has aspired to sing nationally, and gospel has been a mainstay in her life. At the age of 2, Rivers began singing "I Can't Stop Loving God" at Oaks True Holiness Church on St. Helena Island, where her father is pastor. By age 3, she joined her first choir, the Fennellete Inspirational Youth Choir.
"When she led her first song, she wowed the church," said Rivers' mother, Sarah, who continues to lead songs and sing solos at Oaks True Holiness Church.
While living in Beaufort, Rivers found her niche in church and school choirs. At Battery Creek High School, she played the organ and flute in the school band and was voted "Most Talented" when she was a senior. She sang the national anthem at her graduation in 1998.
"Everyone in high school knew I'd be doing something with music," Rivers said. "I am still working on trying to do this full time."
At age 17, Rivers won first place in a University of South Carolina Beaufort talent show singing a capella with her friends, Christine Cummings and Gina Harris, in a group called Travail.
A 2002 graduate of South Carolina State University, Rivers currently teaches fourth grade at John P. Thomas Elementary School in Columbia. In between teaching, singing and continuing to write music, Rivers is helping others to reach their dreams. As music minister at Universal Church of God in Christ in Columbia and through other programs, she works to encourage self-esteem in young women and teaches abstinence.
"I call myself an encourager to push other people toward living their dreams."
Rivers describes her singing style as contemporary Christian with an urban, jazz-type. Influenced musically by Brandy's R&B and Christian artist C.C. Winans, she just released her second CD, which includes the song, "This Treasure," based on her favorite Scripture in 2 Corinthians.
"It encourages you to keep going," she said of the song. "We can dream big, but we can live even bigger, and the power we have to accomplish that is from God. No one can stop that. ... That is really the message."