Oh Happy Day

The Rev. Stefanie R. Minatee T’07 and Queen Latifah—that’s Dana Owens to her—won a 2010 Grammy for their take on a gospel classic.

Minatee, a music teacher in the Plainfield, N.J., public schools, will soon start her D.Min. degree at Drew.

By Renée Olson

How did you start singing? I grew up in the First Baptist Church in Nutley, N.J. My former pastor, the late Rev. Lawrence Roberts, was the first African-American producer for Savoy Records. And my mother is a member of the Angelic Choir that won a Grammy in 1962 for Peace Be Still. So I grew up in that environment. I was about 5 years old when they recorded that.

Where did you meet Queen Latifah? We met about 20 years ago at the First Baptist Church. Her mother was in the choir I directed there, and Dana would come with her. We’re family now. Dana actually didn’t think she could sing. I said, “Dana, I believe you have a voice.” One Sunday I just called her up out of the audience and said, “Dana’s going to sing ‘God is Standing By’ with the choir.” She was nervous but she sounded great and has been singing ever since.

What got Oh Happy Day off the ground? EMI wanted to do a compilation CD with secular artists and choirs. They gave Dana a list of songs, and she called me and asked what song she should choose and if we [Minatee’s Jubilation Choir, based at New Jersey Performing Arts Center] would back her up. I told her “Oh Happy Day” because we’ve done it with Ray Charles, I’ve sung it over in Europe, I know everybody loves the song. It’s been incredible, but we don’t do this for awards. We thank God for everything, but our purpose really is ministry. If along the way we get recognized, that’s wonderful.


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