Elissa studied composition at the University of Auckland, semiotics and later education at the University of Sydney, and arts administration at the University of Technology, Sydney. Her first musical premiered when she was a teenager, and she went on to win an Australia-wide song-writing competition at the age of 20. Towards her late 20s Elissa decided to turn her compositional skills to writing educational piano and so began a career which included such roles as composer-in-residence for schools, a couple of years teaching high school classroom music, adding to her already extensive experience in the field of education teaching the piano and accompanying students for their instrumental and singing exams.
Her first Pepperbox Jazz and Little Peppers books were first published in Australia in 1997, and were immediately incorporated into the Australian Music Examination Board syllabus. Almost as immediately her pieces were selected for Trinity College London and ANZCA exam syllabuses also, and Elissa’s pieces are now widely represented included in various exam syllabuses around the world.
Of particular note is her development of a new aspect of the AMEB syllabus for students at pre-preliminary level. The three volumes of the P Plate Piano series are designed for piano students at the very earliest stages of their musical education, and the series is revolutionising both the teaching and the assessment of young and beginner piano students in Australia. In addition, Elissa regularly presents professional development seminars for piano teachers around the world.
In 2006 Elissa married Sydney radio broadcaster John Stanley, and in early 2007 they had their first child, Tom.