Alumni Profile—Effie Burt
posted on Monday, October 3, 2016 in
Noted jazz and blues vocalist Effie Burt grew up in the south at the end of segregation. One of twelve siblings living in Oxford, Mississippi, she was part of the first integrated classroom in her high school.
Effie had a passion for singing from an early age—but school was a different story. After being kicked out multiple times, she had a baby in her final year of high school and the principal told her to give up on ever graduating. Determined to complete her high school education, and encouraged by family in Waterloo, she packed her bags, moved to Iowa, and enrolled at Hawkeye Institute of Technology.
“Hawkeye gave me the most important thing – a start to making my dreams come true,” she said. “I will always be thankful to Hawkeye and the staff.”
Hawkeye’s instructors provided encouragement and support. After she received her high school diploma, Effie chose to enroll in the police science program at Hawkeye. In her last year she was hired by the security department at John Deere, where she worked until retiring in 2006.
Music has remained a constant throughout Effie’s life. She sang “The Impossible Dream” at her graduation, and the song’s message stayed with her, inspiring her still today. She has performed at multiple high-profile events, including headlining the International Jazz Festival in Jamaica. She was a featured vocalist with the Cedar Falls-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra and has performed for dignitaries including senators, governors, and presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Effie is also a talented composer. She wrote “I’ll Make Me a World in Iowa,” as the theme song for the 2000 statewide “Make Me a World in Iowa” festival. The song was later adopted as an official companion to the state song by resolution of the 79th Iowa General Assembly.
Now known as the “Jazzy Diva,” Effie is a mainstay in the Mississippi blues, jazz, and gospel scene, and is regularly featured in performances from Oxford, Mississippi, to New York City.